Interested in the actual practice of legislators’ reimbursements and per diem? I recommend this piece on state legislators’ per diem from Walter C. Jones of Morris News Service through our friends over at Online Athens. It covers the multiple philosophies and reimbursement practices of several legislators around the state.
While it’s a common practice for taxpayers to rail against the per diem and expenses reimbursement for state lawmakers, the truth is less troublesome. The common state representative shares a secretary with four other legislators. There are exceptions for committee chairmen and floor leaders, but for most it affects productivity and constituent services. For that reason some per diem is spent for support rather than cover the personal costs of the legislator and up to $7,000 per year can be reimbursed to rank-and-file lawmakers.
Lawmakers like Rep. Craig Gordon, D-Savannah, who spend their entire allotment on aides, say volunteers aren’t reliable and the shared secretary isn’t always available.
“It’s just hard to keep track of all the constituent calls and organize things on a daily basis,” Gordon said, noting that he usually can only hire a college student or retiree for the available sum.
A lot of water cooler talk around the capitol centers around HB1380. It’s a somewhat obscure bill, designed, in theory, to pad Georgia’s pension accounts by purchasing life insurance policies on every single State Of Georgia employee.
One person who appears to have taken a personal interest in this bill is none other than former Speaker Glenn Richardson. I say “personal interest” because the lobbyists who have mentioned this to me didn’t see him wearing the required lobbyist badge that they are required to wear at the capitol when they register.
Those same lobbyists and a couple of legislators have also commented to me that the premium from such sales would be better than hitting Powerball (GA Lottery Corps newest bi-weekly game. Buy your tickets for drawings every Wednesday and Saturday and fund the dwindling Hope fund and ensure the board of regents never cuts a budget.)
One capitol insider even went so far to tell me they overheard a legislator say that he would give up his legislative career if he could have that contract.
Rahm Emmanuel’s mantra is never waste a good crisis. GA is trying to figure its way out of the worst budget issues since Reconstruction. We’ve got a bonified budget crisis.
And when I see the names of Burkhalter and Harbin attached to a bill, and hear that there is a personal interest from former Speaker Richardson – all men who have brought shame to themselves and to the House of Representatives – I don’t care to look any further. I don’t want these folks solving this crisis, for fear that they are just making sure they aren’t wasting it.
Kill HB 1380. Please use any time you would have used debating it putting together a real ethics reform package. Preferably one that makes legislators sleeping with lobbyists specifically against the rules of the general assembly.