House requires disclosure of legislators’ expense-paid travel outside the state

A new provision in state House rules adopted Thursday will require representatives to file a public disclosure when they have out-of-state travel and related expenses paid by people seeking to influence state policy, reports The Tennessean.

The rules require any House member to disclose the trip within 10 business days of the lawmaker’s return. The disclosure will then be made public.

“It’s for trips that are related to their legislative duties or that they’re invited to because of their status as a member,” said legislative attorney Doug Himes.

Himes said a lawmaker would fill out the new disclosure form if they went on a fact-finding trip to another state or country.

“The whole idea is just to have people disclose so that the public can see if people take trips where they are.”

According to the new rules, the disclosure of the trips valued at more than $100 is not simply for travel. Anything associated with the trip — be it food, lodging, transportation, entertainment or recreational activities — that has a combined value of $100 or more would require lawmakers to disclose.

Himes said there are exceptions to the new disclosure. He said if national organizations, such as the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, or another state or even the federal government were to pay for a lawmaker to travel out of state, they would not be required to fill out the new disclosure form.

A draft version of the disclosure form asks lawmakers to name the “sponsor” — the individual or entity who paid for or provided reimbursement for all or part of the trip. The form also ask for specific information such as the destination, the name of the gathering, if applicable and the member’s departure and return date.

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