The Arkansas Senate versus The Arkansas House of Representatives
Let’s start by separating the two legislative bodies. They each establish their own practices and policies; therefore, their invoices and forms look a bit different. We will explain both in detail and show you some examples. Many of you have dealt with expense reimbursements at your job and you understand how that works, what type of reports you had to turn in, what you needed to do with receipts and what expenses were acceptable. Let’s check out how our legislators are handling their own expense reports.
When Conservative Arkansas received the Senate papers we requested through the Freedom of Information Act, we found it remarkable that every single Senator uses an identical invoice form. It’s not just the form itself, it’s the items listed on the form which are identical.
Let’s take a look at an invoice submitted by Senator Bookout, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. (Click the image to see a larger version.)
Senator Bookout is billing the state for:
Legislative support services
for a total of $1,500 per month, every month of the year. Remember, the Senate is in session an average of only six weeks a year, but Senator Bookout is billing this exact same amount every single month (all twelve months of the year), whether or not the Senate is in session.
Let’s take a look at one more Senate invoice, this time from Senator Gilbert Baker. (Click the image to see a larger version.)
Senator Baker is billing for the exact same list of expenses; however, his total per month, every month, is $2,350.
So what’s the problem?
According to the Arkansas constitution, expenses need to be documented. A vague list of items with no further documentation and a flat-rate reimbursement every month is not following the Arkansas constitution or the law which governs legislative expense reimbursements. For more details on the constitutional requirements click here. For more details on the law, click here.
Expense amounts vary month to month. Almost all Arkansas legislators’ invoices are for a flat-rate amount each month, every month of the year. Also, as shown above, Senator Bookout and Senator Baker are billing for the exact same items, yet Senator Baker’s invoice is for $850 more each month.
When we received the House papers through a Freedom of Information Act request, we were stunned to see the invoices submitted by our legislators. Not only are House members also requesting a flat-rate amount each and every month, many invoices do not even begin to itemize these so-called expenses.
Now let’s view an invoice submitted by Representative Jon Hubbard. (Click the image to see a larger version.)
Representative Hubbard is simply turning in an invoice for “legislative services” and giving a total of $1,200. There is no description of the services and no documentation breaking down expenses, as required by the Arkansas constitution.
What you see below (Click the image to see a larger version.) is one more example of an invoice from a member of the Arkansas House.
Another thing you may be noticing on some of these invoices is that the legislator is presenting the invoice for services rendered by a third party, usually a limited liability company or LLC. This is an important component of the expense reimbursement issue. Why are they using a third party for their billing? We explore the issue of third-party billing on the page titled What Is LLC or DBA?