Superhuman weighing in on legislative dining habits

September 03, 1998

Tim RowlandTo begin with, I wish to warn you that I am writing this column while taking the "dietary supplement" androstenedione so if the jokes today seem superhumanly funny that is why.

I wish to stress that this is a supplement only and not some sort of illegal steroid the likes of which have been banned in the NFL and the Tribune Media Writers Syndicate.

Therefore, any record I may set for jokes today should be allowed to stand. In fact, I am looking to set the record for the most jokes in an 18-inch column, one currently held by Dave Barry in his 1983 piece on spontaneously generated bra fires.

But speaking of dietary supplements, I couldn't help but notice the report over the weekend about food, lodging and travel expenses reported by local lawmakers, who are reimbursed for these items during their three-month annual stay in Annapolis.


In addition to their legislative salary which approaches $10,000 a month, each lawmaker spends upwards of $10,000 per session on meals, miles and motels.

This wouldn't be a big deal, except that I am concerned over the health of our lawmakers. And since you can't swing a cat in Annapolis without hitting a lawmaker who is being stuffed full of food, cigars and Orioles tickets by a lobbyist - well, you see the potential problem: Overeating.

See, many lawmakers are obviously eating dinner twice. First they are eating the lobbyist-provided meal, then they are eating the meal that we taxpayers are buying them.

(I know lawmakers too well to think they would just take the food reimbursement from the state without actually using it for food, so they must be eating two suppers, which any nutritionist will tell you is very unhealthy.)

I have a solution though, and I think the lawmakers will like it because they are always complaining about having to report the amount of money they spend on food. (In the no-lie department, state Sen. Tim Ferguson scribbled on his expense report, according to the Frederick News-Post: "Note it costs more than $30 per day to eat in Annapolis! This note is for busy-body journalists.")

Poor guy. Now we know the true rigors of being a state senator. It isn't health care issues, it's worrying about trying to survive on a mere $30 a day. And then having to answer to the public to boot. What is this country coming to?

My answer to this trauma for our poor lawmakers is a flat $15 a day meal allowance to start, coupled with an opening-day-of-session, legislative weigh-in.

Then, every two weeks you weigh them again. If they have lost weight they are starving, so you increase their allowance $1 for every pound lost. If, however, they gain weight, you subtract money using a similar formula.

Think of the time and paperwork this will save the legislative delegations. People like Ferguson will no longer have to be so grumpy about answering to the people who elect them.

And the taxpayer benefits, too. Because face it, if a lawmaker is going to be bought out by a special interest the very least the lobbyist can do is pick up the meal bill so we don't have to.

I'd say this is a classic win-win.

You figure 188 lawmakers times $30 a day times 90 days in the session comes to about a half-million dollars. My formula saves the state a quarter of a million dollars.

The other option we have is to enroll lawmakers in the WIC program. Women, Infants and Carnivores - give each one of them a room key and a big slab of government cheese.

Couple that with a few tabs of androstenedione and who knows what superhuman laws they could pass?

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