Legislator Concerned Per Diem Restrictions Favor Wealthy

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An effort to lower daily expense accounts for some state lawmakers is running into more resistance, even as it advances in the General Assembly. Those who live within 50 miles of the state capitol would no longer be eligible for the $173 a day meant for hotels and meals. One legislator says the restrictions favor the wealthy.

In a House committee, Democrat Johnny Shaw of West Tennessee told the sponsor he was making it nearly impossible for a working person to hold office.

"That’s what you’re doing," Shaw says. "You’re setting this up so that only people with money can serve in the legislature.”

Some lawmakers in the Nashville area collect nearly as much in per diem as they make in their state salaries, in spite of not needing a hotel room. Republican Rick Womick of Rutherford County says if legislators feel like they need to be paid more, they need to  “have the backbone to stand up and say that.”

Womick’s per diem restrictions advanced in a House committee but the bill has been delayed in the state Senate. 

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