Sharp decline in free lunches from lobbyists to lawmakers

FILE - The Utah House of Representatives meet on the floor Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A key rule change has spurred a sharp decline in free lunches offered to Utah lawmakers by lobbyists.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1FDKMaa) that only 14 free lunches are scheduled this session. That’s less than half of the 32 lunches lobbyists hosted in 2013.

The decline follows a key rule change in 2013 that removed a financial benefit for lawmakers to accept the free lunches. Previously, legislators could pocket the $61 daily allowance if they went to the free lunch. Now, the base salary has been raised and legislators are reimbursed for actual costs of meals by turning in receipts.

Special interest groups are now holding more food-free receptions. They are cheaper to put on and lawmakers say they are less time-consuming.

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