A government watchdog group is calling for changes to the way state lawmakers are reimbursed after a Gwinnett County state senator was brought up on criminal charges.
Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) admits he made inadvertent mistakes on his expense reports and ultimately a jury agreed they were not intentional.
While most state lawmakers are able to claim per diem of $173 for days they conduct state business when the Legislature is not in session, those in leadership positions, as Balfour was, can claim unlimited.
But William Perry with Common Cause Georgia wants to see changes to how lawmakers are compensated for their time when not in session.
“For somebody to just be able to say ‘I deserve $173’ and not to have to explain what they did on any given day is beyond me that that’s allowed to happen,” he says.
During Balfour’s trial, prosecutors presented evidence that the Snellville Republican ranked the highest among lawmakers in claiming per diem in 2008 and 2011 at 95 days and 126 days, respectively.
“When you think about the times that we’ve been through where people are economically crunched because of the economy, that could lead to a lot of abuse,” says Perry.