(The Center Square) — Tracking how Pennsylvania legislators spend money in office can be a hassle, requiring a public records request — and patience.
That process, however, could soon change if lawmakers post expense reports online in one place.
House Resolution 158 – sponsored by Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Philadelphia – would change House rules to require internet posting of reimbursements.
“One of the best ways to build public trust in the folks that serve in the elected class and to strengthen our democracy is to provide transparency around our taxpayer dollars,” Solomon said. “Unless you get these reform efforts that renew our commitment to our democracy right, you don’t effectively — or you cannot effectively — govern.”
The resolution doesn’t change the existing language of House Rule 14 concerning legislative expenses. It only adds a requirement for those expenses to be “published on a publicly accessible Internet website managed and maintained by the Office of the Chief Clerk.”
The expenses cover transportation costs, food, lodging, office rent, administrative and professional services, and other assorted expenses. Solomon cited his website as a model where he publishes monthly expenses, with his latest report being from February. His expenses ran from $5.39 for office supplies and $70.48 for meal expenses to $1,600 for his district office lease and $519.60 for cleaning services.
Making the change as a resolution instead of a bill also means that the change does not need the approval of the Senate.
“If we’re going to take accountability seriously, if we’re going to take our role as guardians of public trust seriously, then we need to as an institution just embrace this change as a chamber,” Solomon said. “How we decide to govern ourselves reflects the democracy we want to hold out to the rest of the commonwealth.”
The resolution isn’t the only recent proposal for more transparency in the General Assembly.
Rep. Brett Miller, R-Columbia, introduced a bill in June to abolish per-diem reimbursements and require receipts for all legislative expenses, as The Center Square previously reported. Pennsylvania has one of the highest per-diem rates nationally for legislators.
Miller’s bill, HB1344, awaits action in the House Rules Committee, as does Solomon’s proposal.
Senate lawmakers already post expenses online, including for staffers.