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Kittleman wants to limit legislators’ lodging

ANNAPOLIS — Many members of the General Assembly could lose their lodging reimbursements under a bill being introduced by Sen. Allan Kittleman that would eliminate the perk for any legislator who lives less than 50 miles from the State House.

“We’re asking state workers to accept furloughs and benefit cuts,” Kittleman said. “But we’re still letting legislators who live 10 miles away stay in hotels.”

Legislators are eligible to have the state reimburse them $100 a day for the full 90 calendar days of the Assembly session. According to Karl S. Aro, executive director of the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, 149 lawmakers out of 188 (79 percent) have confirmed 90-day contracts this year.

This means state taxpayers will be paying at least $1.3 million this year for legislators to stay in Annapolis hotels, apartments and homes even when they live within commuting distance.

“To have people rent a house for 90 days who live within 50 miles is not fair,” said Kittleman, a Republican from West Friendship in Howard County, who admitted he rented a house in 2005, his first year as a senator. “I don’t think taxpayers should pay for it.

“We’re still paying for those nights for those hotel rooms to be vacant,” Kittleman said.

During most of the 90 days, the legislature and its committees work from Monday night through Friday, and almost all of the delegates and senators return home on the weekends. Legislators are allowed mileage reimbursement for travel back and forth from their home district.

Legislators also get a $42 per diem for breakfast, lunch and dinner for which they do not have to file receipts, as they must do for any kind of lodging.

The lodging reimbursement, based on the Internal Revenue Service standard, has been going down in recent years. In 2009, it was $126 a night.

According to the 2010 report of the General Assembly Compensation Commission, in fiscal 2009, the state reimbursed legislators $439,000 for meals and $1.8 million for lodging, a figure that will be lower this year because of the reduced daily rate.

Kittleman said the House speaker and Senate president could grant exemptions to his bill, and he would even be comfortable for a blanket exemption for all lawmakers on Mondays, when the session starts at 8 p.m.