August 20, 2014 •
WA Ethics Board Votes to Allow Legislators 12 Free Meals Per Year
The Washington Legislative Ethics Board has come to a preliminary conclusion as to how to define “infrequent occasions” as it relates to free meals accepted by the state’s legislators. Section 42.52.420 of the Revised Code of Washington allows public officials to accept gifts in the form of food and beverage on infrequent occasions so long as attendance at such a meal is related to the performance of official duties.
When the Legislature failed to pass any pertinent legislation defining infrequent occasions before its adjournment on March 13, 2014, the Legislative Ethics Board took up the issue. During its August 19, 2014, meeting, the board decided in a 5-3 vote to define infrequent occasions as 12 free meals per year. Under the proposed rule, a qualifying meal occurs when the guest would normally be expected to sit down and eat, such as in a restaurant or a private residence, as opposed to a legislative reception.
Other provisions of the rule, including a reporting requirement for legislators accepting free meals, are still under discussion. A final vote on the rule is scheduled for October 21, 2014.
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