Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tardy legislator denied pay, granted mileage

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA, KAN. — A legislative committee on Monday rejected paying a state senator his salary and expenses for one day because he was late to a meeting on that day.

State Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, sought $290.66 in legislative pay, expenses and mileage for attending a meeting of the House-Senate health policy oversight committee on Dec. 19, 2012.

But state Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, who was serving as chair of the health policy committee, refused to sign off on Haley's reimbursement request.

Schmidt said Haley only attended the meeting for about 5 minutes, failing to be there for at least half of the meeting, which is required by legislative policy to get reimbursed.

Haley countered he was there for about 20 minutes, but that although he failed to attend half of the meeting, the schedule of the meeting was shortened without his knowing about that in advance.

"Any member that attends a meeting, should be compensated for that day," Haley said. "I had cleared my schedule for that entire day," he said.

Haley and Schmidt appeared Monday before the House-Senate Committee on Special Claims Against the State. Haley is a member of the claims committee but later recused himself from action when the committee took up his claim.

The claims committee recommended paying for Haley's mileage but rejected his request for salary and expenses.

State Rep. Mike Houser, R-Columbus, said Haley "was in clear violation of the rules."

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, said, "He did not comply with the rule. What good is having a rule that is not complied with."

But state Rep. Bob Grant, D-Frontenac, said he feared denying Haley his pay would put the Legislature on a "slippery slope" where committee chairs could deny reimbursement for other reasons.

Houser initially wanted to deny Haley any reimbursement, but Claims Committee Chairman Sen. Dan Kerschen, R-Garden Plain, suggested paying Haley mileage since Haley did drive to the committee meeting.

Legislators are paid $88.66 per day when they are conducting legislative business. They also receive $129 daily for subsistence, which covers expenses such as lodging and meals. Legislators are paid 55 cents per mile for mileage, plus any tolls.

Committee members and legislative staff said this was the first time in recent memory that a legislator was denied pay by the committee for being late to a meeting. The committee's action must be approved by the full Legislature before it can become final.