A Marshalltown legislator says he’s confident the Iowa House will follow the Senate’s lead and vote to give an historic Maid-Rite restaurant a reprieve. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals has told Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown to change the way it cooks the hamburger for its loose-meat sandwiches.

Food inspectors say raw meat is cooked in the same receptacle used to store the cooked meat that’s scooped up and slapped into a bun. Representative Mark Smith, a Democrat from Marshalltown, says he eats at the restaurant frequently.

“There’s been concerns about e-coli,.,.but what we’ve seen is 82 years of preparation and nobody getting sick,” Smith says. “No litigation. Perfect health inspections, or very good health inspections all these years.” Don and Sandy Short run Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown and they say it would cost them thousands of dollars to change the method for cooking their loose-meat sandwiches.

Senator David Hartsuch, a Republican from Bettendorf, is a doctor and he says you just don’t want to mess around with e-coli.

“I don’t think we should be mixing raw meat with cooked meat in the same vessel,” Hartsuch says. Hartsuch warns one case of e-coli tracked back to the restaurant would not only be bad for the proprietors, it would spark wider concern about eating meat, something that’s has happened during other e-coli outbreaks around the country.

Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton isn’t wild about having the legislature intervene on behalf of this single business either. “It seems like anytime an Iowan has a problem, come and we’ll pass a law to deal with that,” McKinley says. Senator Steve Sodders, a Democrat from State Center, says the proposal he got the senate to endorse this week merely extends a waiver the restaurant received in 2006.

“My proposal doesn’t change the law. It doesn’t change food safety regulations,” Sodders says. “It just says the waiver that was given four years ago is just in continuance until the place is sold and then the waiver would no longer be in effect.” Sodders has a soft spot for Maid-Rites.

His mother took Sodders and his four brothers to the Maid-Rite in Ames when he was a kid. “I remember the same kind of seating, with the circle-red seats and the same sort of counter — just like Taylor’s has,” Sodders says. “And I’ve been to Taylor’s many times in Marshalltown. I love the place.”

The reprieve for Taylor’s Maid-Rite is included in a budget bill that will next be considered by the House.