Following media stories and criticism of excessive use of the system to compensate state representatives for travel, lodging and meals, Republican state Rep. Brad Roae this week introduced a bill to reform this legislative perk by limiting payments.
“It is clear that the use of the system has become excessive in certain situations,” said Roae, whose Sixth District includes Meadville, Titusville and eastern Crawford County. “We have people seeking compensation for meals and travel on holidays, including Christmas. Taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for a state lawmaker’s Christmas dinner.”
This is the second time in four months Roae has moved to reform the payment system. In February the Tribune reported that Roae had signed on to legislation authored by Republican state Rep. Dan Truitt that would require lawmakers to submit receipts when requesting payments for travel, lodging and meals. Currently, receipts are not required. House Bill 460 has since been referred to the State Government Committee.
In the February story, Roae explained that he hands in receipts anyway. He made 23 payment requests in 2012, receiving $3,817. Fellow Crawford County Republican state Rep. Michele Brooks requested 54 payments totaling $8,802, and the county’s other state representative that year, Republican John Evans, received the most of all representatives. He made 162 requests totaling $26,732.
According to a press release issued by Roae’s office, media reports suggested some state representatives are taking advantage of the system by requesting payments for work supposedly performed on weekends and holidays, when the House was not in session and no committee meetings were being held.
In response, Roae introduced legislation to change the House rules governing these payments, commonly known as per diems. His reforms would:
n Prevent representatives who are not on a particular committee from attending that committee’s hearings or meetings just to receive a per diem;
n Preclude the payment of per diems for official holidays when the House is not in session and the Capitol complex staff are not at work; and
n Restrict the payment of per diems for work done on Saturdays and Sundays.
There would be exemptions for these reforms, according to Roae’s press release. For example, a representative would be able to seek a per diem for attending a committee meeting if his or her legislation was the subject of the meeting, even if he or she was not on that particular committee.
Likewise, state representatives could put in for a per diem on a Saturday or Sunday if the House was in session the following day, since many representatives who live far away from the Capitol travel on the day before the session begins.
“My goal is to apply common sense to a system where it is currently lacking,” Roae said. “Leaving the system as it is now will only further erode public trust in the state Legislature.”