Free Lunches for Lawmakers Targeted

Apr 28, 2016

 

The lobbying groups who treat state lawmakers to thousands of dollars worth of free food every year could face some new requirements under last-minute legislation at the capitol.   

It’s part of an 11th hour budget bill under consideration as the legislature marches toward adjournment.  

Interest groups routinely serve breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks to elected representatives as they work to influence legislation.

There’s no limit on what they can spend during the session as long as all lawmakers are invited.  

Senate Appropriations Chair Sen. Bob Dvorsky (D-Coralville) wants the interest groups to donate leftover food to those in need.

“As you notice there's all kind of food around the capitol,” Dvorsky said.   “Lots of breakfasts and luncheons and that kind of thing and if there's extra edible food and if someone can use it, why not?”

Dvorsky said when the Food Banks of Iowa recently hosted a reception, they arranged to have their extra food picked up and distributed to those in need.

The food flows most freely during the weeks of the session when hundreds of bills remain eligible for debate.

“Between the beginning of the session and especially before second funnel there are a lot of events  that go on every day,” said Sen. Mary Jo Wilhelm (D-Cresco), referring to the legislature’s self-imposed deadline for action on bills.  “Sometimes they’re piggy-backed to more than one event where there’s breakfast or lunch.”

Dvorsky says the legislation is a work in progress.

“We might have it voluntary and get information to groups that come here to provide food,” Dvorsky said.  “They may have a brochure to say if you have extra food say call this group.”      

Dvorsky said when the Food Bank of Iowa recently hosted a reception, they arranged to have their extra food picked up and distributed to those in need.

The provision is part of a package of anti-hunger initiatives still being worked out on a catchall budget bill.   The package also covers prison gardens and a food clearance program for farmers to donate produce.