Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Texas House Committee's $22,000 dinner

In case you're wondering why the 83rd Texas Legislature has accomplished so little, this must-read from the Texas Tribune will answer your questions; money quote:
A remarkably expensive meeting of a key legislative committee took place this week: a $22,000-plus affair at an upscale downtown Austin steakhouse for the 15-member House Calendars Committee.

That panel, which sets the daily lineup of bills for consideration in the House and thus holds life-or-death power over legislation, held its end-of-session dinner at Austin’s III Forks restaurant this past Sunday.

It cost $22,241.03 and required the use of 34 American Express cards, 11 MasterCards, and 20 Visa cards. The committee chairman, state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, said there were about 140 people there, and most of them stayed for dinner.


It was an expensive celebration, but the legislators and staffers who attended didn’t pay for it. The supporters and lobbyists who have been trying to influence legislative outcomes since the session began in January covered the tab. And it’s completely legal, as Hunter pointed out, so long as the lobbyists paying the bills report their expenses where everybody can go see them. Ethics rules limit lobbyists from spending more than $500 on entertainment on a particular legislator, but that limit doesn’t apply to food and drink.


 “I’ve had committee dinners since I’ve been here for seven terms,” Hunter said, speaking in characteristically clipped phrases. “Lobby pays. They follow rules. Everybody knows up front. And we even post it, so we are all in compliance.”

You can view the receipt for the dinner here.

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