Delegation meals, travel, lodging totaled nearly $100,000

September 26, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |

It cost about $96,000 to shelter, feed and transport eight state lawmakers representing Washington County during the last legislative session in Annapolis.

All eight members of the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly were reimbursed for hotel rooms or private homes they rented, according to state guidelines.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, was the only local state representative not to ask for reimbursement for travel and food costs during the session, passing up potentially thousands of dollars.

“I just don’t ... think I need to be reimbursed for those things ...,” he said. “I’m in a position where I can (afford them) and I’m not sure the state is in a position where it can.”

The state follows federal rates for reimbursing legislators.

During the General Assembly’s 2011 regular session, the rates were:

  • $100 a night for lodging
  • 51 cents per mile they drove
  • $42 a day for meals ($8 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, $24 for dinner).

Six of the eight Washington County delegation members claimed the $42-a-day reimbursement for at least some of their meals.

Serafini accepted no meal reimbursement.

Sen. Ronald C. Young, D-Frederick/Washington, stuck with $34 as his maximum daily reimbursement, never claiming $8 for breakfast. He said breakfast already is included with his hotel room.

Among the seven delegation members who received at least some reimbursement for travel costs, Del. Michael J. Hough of Brunswick, Md., asked for the least. His reimbursement for the session was about $84, covering only two one-way trips to or from Annapolis.

During the session, Hough, R-Frederick/Washington, often went back and forth between Annapolis and Washington, D.C., where he works. It was difficult to separate the miles for legislative travel, so he didn’t try to seek reimbursement, he said.

Sen. George C. Edwards, a Republican who lives in Garrett County and also represents Washington and Allegany counties, had the longest commute and therefore the highest travel costs. He was reimbursed for 28 one-way trips of 183 miles apiece.

As a group, the eight delegation members were reimbursed $96,185.50 for their costs connected to the 2011 regular session, according to a Herald-Mail review of their expense reports, which the newspaper obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request.

Serafini, at $9,100, had the lowest total reimbursement.

For Hough and Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, the three-month legislative session didn’t keep them from seeing their families. Both rented homes in Annapolis and had their families stay with them most of the time.

Hough said his wife, Jo, is a stay-at-home mom, so she and their children — Katelynn, 4, and Grant, 3 — lived with him in Annapolis during the session.

Once the children start school, though, the living arrangement probably will change, Hough said.

Parrott and his wife, April, and their children — Patience, 9; Charity, 7; and Neilson, 5 — lived together in Annapolis, too.

Parrott said his wife, who home schools their children, guided them on a lesson about state government by having them follow a bill: requiring back-seat passengers in motor vehicles to wear seat belts. The bill failed in committee.

Parrott said renting a town home in Annapolis let the family spend time together even after long days in the legislature.

Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, also rented a town home for the session.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, and Edwards stayed at the Marriott in Annapolis. Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, and Young were at the Westin. Serafini had a room at the Sheraton.

For meals, some legislators automatically take the full $42, while others keep track of their actual expenses.

Shank did a combination of both. He said he added up his receipts and divided by $42. That’s how many days for which he collected the meal reimbursement — 53 days.

Parrott unintentionally did not submit a final report, covering March 29 through April 12, potentially saving the state several hundred dollars.


Editors’ note: As Maryland’s state legislators prepare to return to Annapolis next month for a special session on legislative redistricting, The Herald-Mail reviewed local lawmakers’ costs associated with the 2011 regular session, which ran from Jan. 12 to April 11. The state reimburses legislators for lodging, meals and mileage.

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