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Legislative committee meals will be catered

PIERRE — A panel of the Legislature’s leaders decided Wednesday to pay up to $23 a head for group meals for lawmakers, staff and others participating in committee work during the nine months outside the regular session.

The $23 would cover food, beverages and tip, and the meal would need to be consumed during the meeting. The committee chairman would need to submit an estimate of the group meal expenses beforehand.

The normal reimbursement for a legislator’s lunch while on official duty is $9.

Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, brought the plan. He said he arranged for a group meal Wednesday for an operations subcommittee that he chairs.

“Today’s lunch is $8.50 (apiece),” Tieszen told a reporter. “I don’t think they plan to spend more than the per diem ($9).”

Tieszen told members of the Legislature’s Executive Board it’s often difficult or impossible for committee members to leave the Capitol, go to a restaurant and get back within one hour.

He said going to lunch frequently requires at least one and a half hours and sometimes two hours. Having a meal catered to the meeting would be “much more efficient,” he said.

The board of Senate and House members voted 12-0 to adopt the committee meal policy.

For work outside the legislative session, lawmakers receive a payment of $129 per day plus additional amounts for meals, travel costs and lodging when necessary, according to Sue Cichos, a member of the Legislative Research Council’s staff.