The state agency that provides support services to the Oklahoma Legislature has paid nearly $5.5 million in membership dues for House and Senate lawmakers to participate in 10 different organizations since 2005.
Among the most expensive is the Southern Regional Education Board ($1.6 million) and the National Conference of State Legislators ($1.2 million).
Since 2010, due to an economic slowdown caused in part by national recession, the Legislative Services Bureau stopped paying airfare, lodging, food and other expenses associated with such events, said Nathan Atkins, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa.
The bureau does not pay for its members to participate in the American Legislative Exchange Council because that organization does not accept public funds, Atkins said.
Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said she pays her membership dues and other expenses associated with that particular council's conferences out of her campaign funds, and then much of that is reimbursed through “scholarships.”
A 2011 report by the Center for Media and Democracy ranked Oklahoma eighth in terms of states who utilize the American Legislative Exchange Council's scholarship program.
Since 2006, Oklahoma lawmakers have accepted $104,165 in cost reimbursements for council events, according to the center.