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Ethics Board To Consider If Wash. Lawmakers Should Report Free Meals



Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board has capped the number of free meals lawmakers can accept from lobbyists.

Now the board will consider whether lawmakers must report those meals. A meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2.

Washington law says lawmakers may accept free meals on infrequent occasions as long as it’s related to their work. Until recently, infrequent had not been defined. Now it is. After much discussion, the Legislative Ethics Board settled on a dozen sit-down meals a year.

The next question is who will keep track and should these meals be reported publicly. One idea is to require lawmakers to tack the meals onto their annual financial disclosure reports called F1s. They already have to report meals over $50 on this form.

This kind of change to the reporting requirement would require a change in state law. Only the legislature can do that, but the Ethics Board could request legislation.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.