Lobbyist-Paid Meals Legislation Appears To Die In Washington Statehouse

Mar 10, 2014
Originally published on March 11, 2014 4:15 pm

It looks like Washington lawmakers may adjourn their 60-day legislative session without addressing the issue of lobbyist-paid entertainment.

Free meals for lawmakers became an issue last year after we reported on several state senators who regularly allowed lobbyists to pick up the tab.

Registered lobbyists in Washington state reported nearly $54 million in expenses last year. But if you wanted to find out if your local lawmaker accepted free meals from lobbyists, good luck. Last year, it took three weeks to build a database to determine which lawmakers dine out the most at lobbyist expense.

This session, the Washington House unanimously approved a requirement that lobbyists electronically file their expense reports.

"I think that sunshine is the best disinfectant and that people need to know what lobbyists do and where they spend their money,” said social service lobbyist Bob Cooper.

But the measure stalled out in the Washington state Senate.

Washington lawmakers are allowed to accept free meals on an infrequent basis -- but that’s never been defined. A Senate bill to have the Legislative Ethics Board decide what infrequent means also died. It never got a hearing despite having a dozen sponsors.

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