State Rep. Brenda Gilmore has collected the most daily expense cash of any state legislator from Nashville so far this year, according to new figures.
Gilmore raked in $16,192 in the $176 daily allowances, easily more than her nearest rival for the dubious honor. That was Rep. Sherry Jones, who took $15,488, according to the state’s Legislative Administration office.
Per diem for Nashville lawmakers always has been controversial. Critics argue local lawmakers don’t deserve the expense cash since they don’t have to pay for hotels and meals as do legislators from the far ends of the state.
Two Nashville lawmakers — House Speaker Beth Harwell and Sen. Douglas Henry — do not accept per diem. Harwell, who has collected $11,616 so far this year, gives hers to charity. Henry, who took $13,024, returns his to the state.
In the legislature as a whole, Gilmore was the 13th-highest recipient of per diem. The per diem king was House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, who took $19,536.
All legislators collected roughly the same per diem during the five-month legislative session. After that, it’s up to lawmakers to decide how often they want to charge taxpayers for attending conferences or coming to Legislative Plaza for meetings or routine office work.
Other leaders in per diem so far this year are Reps. Jimmy Naifeh, $18,683; Joe Towns, D-Memphis, $18,480; Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, $18,128; and Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, $17,952.