NASHVILLE (AP) – A proposal to eliminate hotel allowances for some Tennessee lawmakers passed the House on Monday despite concerns that it might hurt those who use the excess to defray other unreimbursed expenses.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Rick Womick of Murfreesboro was approved 71-15. It would eliminate a $107-per-night hotel payment for the 33 legislators who live within 50 miles of the state Capitol.
The legislation would continue to provide a $66 daily meals allowance for all lawmakers.
Womick said the main purpose is to let taxpayers know their money isn't being wasted.
"The intent is to uphold a commitment we made to the taxpayers to get rid of the ... waste and abuse in government," said Womick, who lives about 40 miles from the Capitol. "To make government smarter and smaller."
However, Democratic Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar said he's concerned the proposal could lead to what he considers more extreme cuts targeting lawmakers.
"Next thing somebody is going to bring something up here to say, hey, legislators ought to just serve for nothing," said Shaw, adding that some lawmakers need the excess allowance because they don't have other income when they're in session.
Rep. Johnnie Turner agreed.
"This may eventually affect those who live farther than 50 miles," said the Memphis Democrat.
The companion bill is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday in the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The Senate appears to be learning toward amendments that Womick has said would kill the bill.
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