Bid to Clamp Down on Lawmaker Allowances Delayed

ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) – A proposal to eliminate hotel allowances for some Tennessee lawmakers was put on hold Tuesday after a state Senate committee member said the reimbursement rules should be tightened for the entire Legislature.

The original bill filed by Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin would eliminate a $107-per-night hotel payment for the 33 legislators who live within 50 miles of the state Capitol.

The proposal was on the verge of a swift vote in the Senate State and Local Government Committee before fellow Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro proposed adding a requirement for lawmakers who live outside the Nashville area to submit hotel receipts.

"If we're doing it for those under 50 miles, we should address those over 50 miles who are milking the system," Ketron said.

Ketron said the change would alter the current practice of automatically paying each lawmaker the full daily allowance, no matter what they actually spend on their accommodations.

"There was a member who is no longer here who took the per diem and slept in his office and showered downstairs. That's not quite fair," Ketron said. "Or those who double up and triple up in to a motel room or an apartment."

Lawmakers receive the hotel allowance for four days a week while the Legislature is in session, though most only stay in Nashville for three nights.

Ketron said he supports Haile's bill, even though he is among the Nashville-area lawmakers who would lose the daily hotel allowance. The measure would continue to provide a $66 daily meals allowance for all lawmakers.

The original measure applying to just those living close to Nashville would cut an estimated $253,616 in lawmaker expenses per year.

Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman and the committee's chairman, called for a vote to be delayed so staff could flesh out the language and estimated costs of Ketron's proposal.

The companion bill sponsored by Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro, was scheduled for a House subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.

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