There is such a thing as a free lunch ... for Minnesota lawmakers

Author:
Updated:
Original:

The Star Tribune reports that a new law now allows Minnesota state legislators and their staffers to accept meals and drinks at events hosted by special interest groups – just as long as all 201 lawmakers are invited.

The law amounts to a loosening of a 19-year-old gift ban designed to lessen the influence of lobbyists on lawmakers. The state has had one of the strictest gift bans in the nation, and it still bans gifts to lawmakers in smaller events. (The National Conference of State Legislatures compares rules in the 50 states.)

But the easing of the rules could help improve relations between the parties and lead to more bipartisan collegiality, its advocates say. “The whole genesis was the idea that you can’t really work together until you play together, from the standpoint of getting to know each other and becoming social acquaintances,” bill proposer Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, told the Star Tribune.

Critics say the new law gives lobbyists unfair influence. “Most of my constituents don’t have people offering them fancy meals,” said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, told the Star Tribune.

Do gifts, even relatively modest dinners and drinks, buy influence? Opinions vary. "There is a lot of good sociological evidence that suggests gift-giving develops friends and relationships," Hamline University law professor and government ethics expert David Schultz told the Post Bulletin earlier this year when the law was approved. "I call it the Santa Claus syndrome. Everybody loves Santa Claus. Why? Because Santa Claus gives us presents."

Next Up

LRT trail in Hopkins.

Police: Suspect assaulted woman on LRT trail in Hopkins

They're asking for the public's help tracking him down.

Screen Shot 2021-06-12 at 7.50.02 AM

Former WCCO reporter Mary McGuire joins FOX 9

She'll be reporting in a freelance role with the FOX affiliate.

Matt Shoemaker

Matt Shoemaker removed from rotation, fits in with Twins bullpen

The right-hander allowed two ninth-inning runs in a 6-4 loss to Houston.

1200 W Broadway Ave, Minneapolis, Minnesota - May 2019

1 dead, 1 wounded in shooting outside funeral in Minneapolis

The funeral was for one of two people killed in the shooting outside a Minneapolis nightclub in May.

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 1.51.13 PM

Darnella Frazier awarded Pulitzer Prize special citation for George Floyd video

She was just 17 when she filmed George Floyd's murder at 38th and Chicago.

MN Food Truck Festival 3 jpg

MN Food Truck Festival returns with events in St. Paul, Anoka

Organizers promise 50-plus food trucks at each festival - including some newcomers.

Brian Mock body cam screengrab from charges - 2021.06.11

Charges: MN man bragged he 'beat the s**t' out of cops in Capitol riot

He was one of two suspects arrested in Minnesota and charged Friday.

Screen Shot 2021-04-01 at 3.30.32 PM

$23 a month for Bally Sports North? It could happen, per report

There is a way to circumnavigate the system already ... but it's kind of naughty.

Keisa Lange

4th suspect arrested in death of woman found along St. Cloud road; 3 others charged

Keisa Lange was found dead on the side of a quiet cul de sac from a gunshot.

Minnesota State Fair

It's official: Minnesota State Fair is on, with no COVID restrictions

Proof of vaccination won't be required, and face masks won't be mandatory.

Related