MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Taxpayers did not pick up the tab for any travel by Alabama legislators during the summer convention season, a change from recent years that reflects the state's ongoing budget troubles.
Some legislators still made trips to Charleston, W.Va., Chicago and other cities hosting conventions of legislative organizations, but lawmakers paid the cost or got financial help from groups putting on the events.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, the new chairman of the Southern Legislative Conference, said he did not allow any legislator to travel out of state at taxpayer expense, but he did work to identify scholarships for members who wanted to attend a conference.
"As a result, some members have been able to gain valuable policy insights and build beneficial relationships with members throughout the country without spending taxpayer money," he said.
The speaker has to approve taxpayer-paid trips out of state for representatives, and the lieutenant governor has the same responsibility for senators. Traditionally, many of those trips are to attend conventions sponsored by legislative organizations. Hubbard and Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey told legislators before the summer convention season started that they wouldn't approve any trips because of the state's financial problems, which prompted a 10.6 percent cut in spending for non-education agencies.
Hubbard, R-Auburn, and a spokesman for Ivey, R-Montgomery, said they maintained that position and no legislator received approval.
Hubbard said his office worked to find scholarships from legislative organizations for members who expressed interest in attending conferences. They lined up help for Reps. Randy Davis, R-Daphne; Jamie Ison, R-Mobile; James Buskey, D-Mobile; Victor Gaston, R-Mobile; and Howard Sanderson, R-Huntsville, to attend the Southern Legislative Conference meeting in Charleston in July. The speaker's office said Rep. Arthur Payne, R-Birmingham, paid his own way.
The speaker's office helped Reps. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden; Laura Hall, D-Huntsville; April Weaver, R-Pelham; and Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, attend the National Conference of State Legislatures in Chicago in August.
Hubbard received help with his expenses at the Southern Legislature Conference, where he was elected chairman, but paid his own way to the National Speakers Association meeting in Indianapolis in July.