Wearing white plastic bibs, legislators cracked open their
lobsters and dipped the succulent meat into melted butter. Large
dishes in the middle of each table quickly filled up with shells.
Between bites, state Rep. Bubs Hohulin, R-Lamar, was asked how
many he'd had.
"I've lost count," he said.
Hohulin was among about 20 Missouri legislators at the 10th
Annual Maine Lobster Dinner for the House and Senate banking
committees and legislative leadership. The soiree, held Tuesday
evening at a Jefferson City hotel, cost $3,768. The Missouri
Financial Services Association picked up the tab.
The association represents 20 companies in the consumer loan
and home-equity loan business - Beneficial Corp. and Household
Financial Group Ltd. among them. Such companies often have a stake
in bills before the banking panels.
Two legislators want to end such lobbyist-paid feasts. But they
say their proposal is probably dead for this year.
The House Judiciary and Ethics Committee approved it March 28,
but House Speaker Bob F. Griffin, D-Cameron, has yet to place it on
the debate calendar. With only five weeks remaining until
adjournment, "it's too late" to pass it, says one sponsor, Rep.
Steve McLuckie, D-Kansas City.
The bill would ban lobbyist-paid meals unless the entire
Legislature was invited or the meal was a "working lunch or dinner"
for a committee. Each committee member's meal could not exceed $15
and the sponsoring lobbyist could have no interest in bills before
Some legislators say the proposal will stand a better chance
next year, especially if a new state commission raises legislators'
salaries and daily expense allowances. "Until those are addressed,
we shouldn't eliminate meals," says state Sen. Mike Lybyer,
D-Huggins, who attended the lobster dinner.
State voters authorized the pay commission in November, but it
has not been appointed. Members will include one retired judge, 12
people picked by the governor and nine - one from each
congressional district - selected at random from voter registration
rolls by the secretary of state.
Appointments must be made by Feb. 1; a salary schedule is due
Dec. 1, 1996, and takes effect unless the Legislature vetoes it.
Now, legislators draw $23,491 a year in salary for the
part-time jobs. The Legislature meets 4 1/2 months a year.
They also get $35 a day to cover living expenses in the
capital. They say the cheapest hotel room costs $32 a night,
leaving only $3 for meals.
In reality, legislators aren't quite that pinched. Most get a
tax break. If they live more than 50 miles from the Capitol, they
can deduct about $40 a day - the difference between the state
expense rate and the federal rate. …