Food and Beverage Gift Restrictions

3/13/2018

Food and beverages are likely the most common types of gifts offered to legislators. Snacks and drinks may be provided at meetings or conferences. Individuals may offer to pay for a public official's meal as a gesture of respect or appreciation. But gifts of any kind, including food and beverage, have the potential to create the appearance of a conflict of interest. 

Some states restrict all gifts of food or beverage, while others do the exact opposite by exempting food and beverage from all gift restrictions. Most states establish minimum amounts, under which a gift of food or beverage may not be restricted. Exceptions are common for meals provided at widely attended events or to event participants. Restrictions may apply only to lobbyists. Restrictions may apply to anyone other than family. Some states apply different limits on the value of consumables that may be provided by lobbyists, which may also be different if the giver of the gift is a principal. Gifts of food or beverage motivated by friendship are also exempted from limits in some jurisdictions.

This 50-state survey provides state and territorial statutory prohibitions on the giving and receipt of consumables to legislators. Some chamber rules may provide additional restrictions not reflected in this survey. For additional relevant information, refer to NCSL's survey of disclosure requirements for gifts and honoraria.

This table is intended to provide general information and does not necessarily address all aspects of this topic. Because the facts of each situation may vary, this information may need to be supplemented by consulting legal advisors. All content is up to date through 3/13/2018.

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Food and Beverage Restrictions
STATE STATUTE
Alabama

General $25 per meal or $150 per year limit on food and beverages provided by a lobbyist, or $50/$250 if from a principal. No limits for food provided if: motivated by friendship; from family or a non-lobbyist or non-principal; provided as part of an educational function or widely attended event. Ala. Code § 36-25-1.

Alaska

May not solicit, accept or receive hospitality worth $250 or more from a single lobbyist. Excludes: food or beverage for immediate consumption; at a social event or meal; foodstuffs indigenous to the state shared as a cultural or social norm; from family; if motivated by friendship. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 24.60.080.

Arizona

General prohibition against gifts from lobbyists includes food. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 41-1232.08. Exceptions: food or beverages if properly reported; if related to an event or function when all legislators or an entire committee is invited; if given to the general public at an event. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 41-1231.

Arkansas

A lobbyist shall not offer or pay for food or drink at more than 1 planned activity per 7 days. Exceptions: Food or drink included in a conference registration fee; Food and drink at events coordinated through a regional or national conference and provided registrants. Ark. Const. art. XIX,§ 30.

Prohibition against lobbyists' gifts to public officials, including food. Ark. Const. art. XIX, § 30. Exceptions: Food or drink available at a planned activity to which a governmental body is invited; Nonalcoholic beverages provided at a meeting of a civic, social, or cultural organization or group; Food and nonalcoholic beverages provided to participants in a bona fide panel, seminar, or speaking engagement at which the audience is a civic, social, or cultural organization or group; Anything of value provided by a party at the official swearing-in, inaugural, and recognition events of constitutional officers and members of the General Assembly. Ark. Const. art. XIX, § 30 & Ark. Code Ann. § 21-8-402.

California

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Colorado

May not solicit, accept or receive any thing of value worth more than $50 aggregately per year per person absent equal or greater consideration. General prohibition against lobbyist gifts to members of the general assembly. Exceptions: cost of food or beverages consumed at a reception, meal, or meeting by an organization before whom the recipient speaks or answers questions as part of a scheduled program. Colo. Const. art. XXIX, § 3.

Connecticut

General prohibition against gifts if: over $100 from or to a supervised employee or official, or any lobbyist. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-84. Things not included in the definition of "gift": Food or beverage costing less than $50 aggregately per recipient per year, consumed when the payer is in attendance; Food or beverage costing less than $50 and consumed at a publicly noticed legislative reception to which all members are invited, and is hosted not more than once in any year by a lobbyist or business organization; A gift for the celebration of a major life event, if provided by a non-family member not to exceed $1,000 in value; if less than $100 in the aggregate; food or beverage provided at a hospitality suite of an interstate legislative association by a person who is not a registrant or doing business with Connecticut. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-79.

Delaware

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

District of Columbia

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Florida

Food and beverages which are not consumed at a single sitting or meal and provided on the same day are considered a single gift, with the total value provided considered the value of the gift. Food and beverage consumed at a single sitting meal shall be considered a single gift. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.3148. Otherwise, general gift prohibitions and disclosure requirements apply. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.312.

Georgia

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts may apply to food and beverages.

Guam

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts may apply to food and beverages.

Hawaii

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Idaho

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Illinois

Prohibition on gifts, including food, from prohibited sources. 5 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 430/10-10. A prohibited source is a person or entity seeking to do business with the state agency of the public official, or has an interest that may be substantially impacted by the performance or non-performance of some duty of the official. 5 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 430/1-5. Exceptions: anything provided on the basis of a personal friendship; food or refreshments not exceeding $75 per person in value on a single day, provided that the food is consumed on the premises from which it was prepared or purchased or catered; food, refreshments, etc. resulting from the outside business or employment activities of the public official; any other gift with a value under $100. 5 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 430/10-15.

Indiana

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Iowa

Restrictions apply only to restricted donors. Iowa Code Ann. § 68B.22. “Restricted donor” is a person who: is or seeking to be a party to any contracts with an agency the donee holds office; will be directly and substantially affected financially by the performance or nonperformance of the donee's official duty to a greater degree than the public generally; is the subject of or party to a matter pending before an agency over which the donee has discretionary authority as part of the donee's official duties or employment within the regulatory agency subunit; is a lobbyist or a client of a lobbyist with respect to matters within the donee's jurisdiction. Iowa Code Ann. § 68B.2.

Food or beverage-related exceptions: actual expenses for food, beverages and others in return for participation in a panel or speaking engagement; food and beverages provided at a meal that is part of a bona fide event or program at which the recipient is being honored for public service; food, beverages, travel, or others if the official is representing an agency in a delegation whose sole purpose is to attract a specific new business to locate in the state, encourage expansion or retention of an existing business already established in the state, or to develop markets for Iowa businesses or products, AND the donor of the gift is not the business or businesses being contacted, AND the official plays a significant role in the presentation to the business or businesses on behalf of the public official's agency; Gifts of food, beverage, and entertainment received at a function where every member of the general assembly has been invited to attend, when the function takes place during session; any food or beverage with a value at or less than $3. Iowa Code Ann. § 68B.22.

Kansas

No state officer or candidate shall accept, and no person with a special interest shall offer or give, any hospitality with an aggregate value of $40 or more per year, if a major purpose of the donor is to influence the performance of official duties or was given because of the officer’s official position. Applies also to gifts from any person regulated by a state agency to an official of that agency. Hospitality of food and beverages are presumed not to influence, except when given upon a condition of action or inaction. No legislator shall solicit any contribution to any organization for travel, subsistence and other expenses incurred by legislators for attending and participating in meetings, programs and activities of such organization or those conducted or sponsored by such organization. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-237.

No public official shall solicit or accept free or special discount meals from a source outside of state government, except: Meals motivated by a personal or family relationship or provided at widely attended events; Meals provided at public events in which attended in an official capacity; meals obviously not provided because of the person's official position; food not offered as part of a meal; any meal the value of which is $25 or less; meals provided when presence at the event or meeting where the meal is provided serves a legitimate state purpose or interest and attendance is authorized. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-237a.

Kentucky

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Louisiana

General prohibition against accepting or soliciting anything of value from a person seeking or doing business with a public servant's agency. La. Stat. Ann. § 42:1115. Excepts any gift of food, drink, or refreshment under $50 per event. La. Stat. Ann. § 42:1115.1. Also excluded is food or refreshments while a personal guest of another person. La. Stat. Ann. § 42:1102.

Maine

Food and beverages are subject to general gift restrictions, which are that a gift creates a conflict of interest if accepted by a legislator or immediate family and given by a person or persons affected by legislation or who have an interest in proposed legislation, or the purpose of the gift is to influence or reward some official action. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 1, § 1014. Not a "gift" if: aggregate annual value is $300 or less; given on the basis of personal friendship, excluding from lobbyist friends; prayer breakfasts; meals provided by industry or special interest organizations as part of an informational program presented to a group of public servants. Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 1, § 1012.

Maryland

May be subject to general gift restriction on soliciting gifts, or receiving gifts from regulated lobbyists. General restriction applies to gifts from those seeking or doing business with the legislature, or engaging in regulated activity, or has a financial interest materially and substantially affected by official duties. Md. Gen. Provis. § 5-505.

Gift restriction does not apply to food or beverage if: received and consumed by the official in presence of the sponsor as part of a meal or reception to which all members of a legislative unit are invited; received from anyone other than a regulated lobbyist if not in session and in a home county; received at a meeting of a legislative organization; unsolicited non-alcoholic drinks under $20; given prior approval by the state ethics commission. Md. Gen. Provis. § 5-505.

Massachusetts

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Michigan

Food subject to the general restriction on gifts that tends to influence a public officer. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.342. Food or beverage specific exceptions to this rule: if the gift value is $25 or less per month aggregately; from a family member; provided for immediate consumption. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 4.414.

Minnesota

Food and beverage may be subject to the general restriction on gifts from lobbyists and principals. Food or beverage specific exceptions to the general rule: if given at a reception, meal, or meeting if held away from a recipient's place of work by an organization before whom a recipient appears to make a speech or answer questions as part of a program, or an invitation to attend was provided to all members; if from a family member; if given to all members of a group of legislators. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 10A.071.

Mississippi

Subject to general restriction on using official position to gain anything of value. Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-4-105 & 5-8-3. Exceptions relating to food and beverage: Food and beverages for immediate consumption provided by a lobbyist up to a value of $10 in the aggregate during any calendar year. Miss. Code. Ann. § 5-8-3.

Missouri

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Montana

Prohibition against accepting a gift of substantial value or a substantial economic benefit that would tend improperly to influence or is primarily for the purpose of rewarding the person for official action taken applies to food and beverages. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-2-104. Excludes: any gift with a value under $50; food or beverage consumed when participating in a charitable, civic, or community event related to the office. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-2-102.

Nebraska

Food and beverages are subject to the general restriction on gifts from principals, lobbyists, or those acting on behalf, if over $50. Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 49-1490. Exceptions for food and beverages: a gift received from a relative; food and beverage provided for immediate consumption. Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 49-1423.

Nevada

Excluded from the definition of "gift" is the cost of food or beverages for social events to which every legislator is invited. Otherwise, general gift prohibitions may apply. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 218H.060. The gift prohibition applies to gifts which would tend improperly to influence a reasonable person to depart from the faithful and impartial discharge of public duties. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 281A.400.

New Hampshire

General gift prohibition against receiving any gift over $25 in value may apply to food and beverages. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-B:3. Relevant exceptions to the prohibition include: Meals, beverages, lodging, or transportation associated with attendance at any event for which the primary significance is ceremonial or celebratory, provided the event is public or, if by invitation only, is planned to have an attendance greater than 50 people; any event where the person is attending in an official capacity representing the state or the agency of which the person is a member; Meals and beverages consumed at a meeting or event, the purpose of which is to discuss official business; gifts purely private and personal in nature. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-B:2.

New Jersey

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

New Mexico

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

New York

General prohibition from receiving gifts, unless given under circumstances that it is not reasonable to infer that the gift was intended to influence a public official, applies to food and beverages. N.Y. Legis. Law § 1-m. Food or beverage-specific exceptions: complimentary attendance, including food and beverage, at charitable or political events; complimentary attendance, food and beverage offered by the sponsor of a widely attended event; Travel, meals and accommodations for an attendee, panelist or speaker at an informational event or meeting when made by a governmental entity or by an in-state accredited institution of higher education that hosts the event on its campus; Meals or refreshments when participating in a professional or educational program provided to all participants;  Food or beverage valued at $15 or less. N.Y. Legis. Law § 1-c.

North Carolina

General prohibition against gifts given with "corrupt intent" or from a lobbyist or principal or from a regulated person applies to food and beverage. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 120C-303. Relevant exceptions: Food and beverages for immediate consumption in connection with a qualifying meeting; Reasonable actual expenditures in connection with attendance or participation at a qualifying event; anything generally made available or distributed to the general public; Gifts from extended family; Gifts valued at less than $100.00 given in the commission of official duties if given as a customary personal gift in another country as part of an overseas trade mission; gifts private and personal in nature; Food and beverages for immediate consumption and related transportation provided that the food, beverage, or transportation is given by a principal and not a lobbyist, and the food, beverage, or transportation is provided during an event and is available to all attendees of the same class as the recipient; Food and beverages for immediate consumption at an organized gathering to which a public servant is invited for purposes related to service or position, and to which at least 10 individuals attend, or to which all shareholders, employees, board members, etc. who are located in a specific office or county are invited. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 138A-32.

North Dakota

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Ohio

Explicitly excludes food and beverages from the definition of gift. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 102.031.

Oklahoma

General gift prohibition applies to food and beverage, and prohibits gifts from subordinates or superiors, any entity doing business with the state, from persons licensed or regulated by the state. Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. Rule 4.17, 4.10, 4.9, & 4.8. Relevant exceptions: if there exists a personal relationship that would justify the gift; on an occasional basis, including an occasion on which gifts are traditionally given or exchanged, provided the gift, which may not be in cash, has an aggregate market value of $20.00 or less; when items such as food or refreshments are to be shared in the agency among several employees; with gifts involving personal hospitality provided at a residence of a type and value customarily provided; if appropriate to the occasion in recognition of infrequently occurring occasions of personal significance. Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. Rule 4.17.

A legislative liaison or lobbyist may make a gift in recognition of infrequently occurring occasions of personal significance not exceed $100.00 in the aggregate in any year. Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. Rule 5.8.

Oregon

General gift prohibition applies to food and beverage, and prohibits gifts valued over $50 from any source with a legislative or administrative interest. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 244.025. Relevant exceptions: Admission or food or beverage consumed at a reception, meal or meeting held by an organization when the official represents state government, a local government or a special government body; Reasonable food, travel or lodging expenses when representing a governmental unit on an officially sanctioned trade-promotion or fact-finding mission, in officially designated negotiations, or economic development activities, where receipt of the expenses is approved in advance; Food or beverage consumed at a reception, provided as an incidental part of the reception; anything as part of the usual and customary practice of the person's private business. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 244.020.

Pennsylvania

Hospitality explicitly excluded from gift prohibitions. 65 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 13A03.

Rhode Island

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

South Carolina

Prohibition against lobbyists providing anything of value, presumably including food and beverages. Relevant exceptions: if also furnished on the same terms as a member of the general public; emergency assistance given gratuitously and in good faith; anything of value given to a family member. S.C. Code Ann. § 2-17-80.

Same limits apply to principals, but only if exceeding $50 per day or $400 per year. Exceptions: if given at a function to which an entire membership is invited; activities reasonably related to economic development efforts, with prior written approval. S.C. Code Ann. § 2-17-90.

South Dakota

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Tennessee

Prohibition applies to food and beverages, if from lobbyists and principals or for the purpose of improperly influencing an official action. Tenn. Code Ann. § 3-6-304. Relevant exceptions: if from family or motivated by a close personal relationship; given at events unrelated to official position; benefits made available to all members of an appropriate class; Food, refreshments, meals, or beverages provided by an employer of a lobbyist in connection with an in-state event, provided: value does not exceed $50 per event per day, no cumulative items worth more than $100 per year. Tenn. Code Ann. § 3-6-305.

Texas

Gifts of food or beverage are explicitly permitted if properly disclosed and not otherwise in conflict with state ethics laws. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 305.024.

Utah

Lobbyists prohibited from offering or giving aggregately, per day, more than $10 in food or beverage. Limit does not apply for food or beverage properly reported. Utah Code Ann. § 36-11-304. This limitation applies only to lobbyists giving of gifts, not the acceptance or solicitation of gifts by public officials.

No specific statutory limits regarding the receipt of food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Vermont

"Food or alcoholic beverage" is included in the definition of what may constitute a gift. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 2, § 261. A legislator shall not solicit a gift, other than a contribution, from a registered employer or lobbyist, except for nonprofit charitable contributions. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 2, § 261 & 261b.

Virginia

Generally, a public official may not accept a gift if it reasonably tends to influence the performance of official duties, or if it is from a person with interests substantially affected by the performance of official duties. Va. Code Ann. § 30-103. May also not accepts gift valued aggregately over $100 per year, but single gifts under $20 don't count toward the $100 limit. Va. Code Ann. § 30-103.1.

Relevant food or beverage-related exceptions: any gift accepted while in attendance at a widely attended event; a travel related gift upon disclosure and approval. Va. Code Ann. § 30-103.1. Also: food or beverages at an event at which a filer is performing duties related to public service; food, beverages, registration or attendance fees waived for any event at which a filer is a featured speaker, presenter, or lecturer; unsolicited awards of appreciation or recognition; travel or any meal provided for attendance at a meeting by, a unit of the state or any charitable organization, to which such person has been appointed or elected or is a member by virtue of his office or employment; gifts with a value of less than $20; attendance at function where food that can be conveniently consumed while standing or walking are offered; gifts from relatives or personal friends. Va. Code Ann. § 30-101.

Virgin Islands

No specific statutory limits regarding food or beverages. General limits on the receipt of gifts, or other conflict of interest provisions, may apply to food and beverages.

Washington

May not accept gifts, generally including food or beverage, with an aggregate value in excess of $50 per year. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.140. Relevant exceptions: Food and beverages consumed at hosted receptions where attendance is related to official duties; Admission related consumables at events with a civic, charitable, governmental, or community organization; if from any agency or private source. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.150.

West Virginia

Meals and beverages are presumed to be lawful gifts that do not impair impartiality or independent judgments. W. Va. Code Ann. § 6B-2-5.

Wisconsin

No state public official may accept or retain any transportation, lodging, meals, food or beverage, or reimbursement therefor. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 19.45. Exceptions: reimbursement or payment of actual and reasonable expenses for a published work or presentation of a talk or participation in a meeting; if from the state or on behalf of the state if incurred or received on behalf of the state and not primarily for the private benefit of the official or any other person; if from a political committee. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 19.56.

Wyoming

Food and beverage explicitly exempted from gift restrictions. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 9-13-102.