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Washington Legislative Ethics Panel To Consider Free Meals Rule

File photo of the Washington State Capitol building in Olympia.

File photo of the Washington State Capitol building in Olympia.

Northwest News Network, Colin Fogarty

Washington law allows lawmakers to accept gifts of food and drink on infrequent occasions. But that word “infrequent” has never been defined.

How many free meals is too many? That’s the question Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board aims to answer at a public hearing Tuesday in Olympia. The panel will consider a draft proposal to limit how many free meals lawmakers can accept from lobbyists.

Last year, our investigation with the Associated Press found some lawmakers regularly accepted lobbyist-paid meals. That triggered the Ethics Board’s interest in the issue.

The Board is considering a range of limits on free meals from as few as two per year to as many as one per week. Once the Board decides on that, it will tackle this issue of whether lawmakers should have to report these meals. Lobbyists already do, but the paper filings with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission are hard to track.

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