Posted on Oct 8, 1993 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 93-17
October 8, 1993
Legislators’ Expenditures of Allowance Not Government Records

[NOTE:  It has come to OIP’s attention that, subsequent to the issuance of this opinion in 1993, both the House of Representatives and the Senate may have changed their respective policies on legislative allowances.  OIP also understands that the method of payment of the legislative allowance may have changed.  While these changes do not overrule this opinion, they may limit its usefulness and OIP recommends that the House or Senate be contacted directly for questions about their policies concerning payment of legislative allowances.]

Records relating to each State legislator’s expenditure of their $5,000 annual allowance are not “government records” under the UIPA. Internal policies of both the House of Representatives and the Senate provide that: (1) the allowance is payable in lump sum; and (2) there are no reporting or accounting requirements imposed upon the expenditure of the allowance. After consulting U.S. Treasury Regulations, the OIP concluded that the annual allowance is an “unaccountable” business expense reimbursement plan because the allowance is included in each legislator’s gross income, is reported on their W-2 Form, and is subject to income taxation and employment tax withholding.

While the OIP found that the definition of the term “government record” was intended by the Legislature to be comprehensive, the OIP found that the Legislature could not have intended the term to include records relating to how public employees spend their personal incomes. However, the OIP found that the UIPA would not prohibit legislators from disclosing how they have spent their allowances, and that should the House and the Senate adopt rules that impose accounting or reporting requirements concerning the annual allowance, records compiled in connection with such requirements would be “government records” under the UIPA.

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