House, Senate at Odds Over Bill to Cut Per Diem Payments?

Republicans in the House and Senate appear at odds over a proposal to reduce the amount of money lawmakers living within 50 miles of Nashville get as a daily expense allowance.
The House State Government Subcommittee approved Wednesday the bill (HB80) as filed and sponsor Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro, promised to reject any amendments. In the Senate State and Local Government, meanwhile, the bill has been delayed to consider an amendment proposed by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro.
As introduced, the bill would reduce the automatic “per diem” expense payment by $107 per day – the amount calculated to cover the cost of a motel room in Nashville. Lawmakers would still get $66 per day that is attributed to meals and other expenses, plus mileage for commuting.
Ketron said in the Senate committee that he has heard of a lawmaker, living more than 50 miles from Nashville, “milking the system” by sleeping in his office to avoid a motel bill. He suggested the bill be amended to instead require all lawmakers to file receipts for their motel for payment by the state.
But Womick told colleagues “you have my word” that no such amendment would be accepted. That came after Rep. Shelia Butt, R-Columbia, expressed concern that the bill could become a “slippery slope” with revisions that with paperwork requirements “could grow to cost more than the savings.”
Legislative staff estimates that the bill would save taxpayers about $250,000 per year.

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