Tuesday, January 19, 2016

California Lawmakers Show Up Friday For 'Per Diem Day'

Great to speak with Bed Bradford of Capitol Public Radio for this

Floor sessions usually take place on Mondays and Thursdays, but with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday approaching, the state Senate and Assembly pushed their last meeting back to Friday.

That ensures members can receive a daily per diem for hotel and travel expenses through the weekend--including Monday's holiday.

The California Constitution allows state lawmakers to receive a daily stipend for hotel and travel expenses—except when the Legislature spends more than three days in recess. The current rate is $173 a day.

At roughly 200 session days per year, that amounts to more than $34,000 annually, in addition to lawmakers' base salaries. Some members opt out, particularly legislators who live near the Capitol and have fewer travel expenses.

The off-day session is colloquially known as “Per Diem Day." Loyola Law School political ethics professor Jessica Levinson questions the practice.
"I completely understand everyone wants to make sure they’re compensated for their time, but whenever lawmakers are paid, it’s our money," says Levinson. "When you see them playing calendar tricks, it feels like lawmakers are really just trying to make sure they collect some extra tax dollars."

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