Pursuant to Section 4(b) of Article IV of the California Constitution, state legislators are compensated for their travel and living expenses associated with their official duties (called “per diem,” which is Latin for “for the day”). The limitation contained in the state Constitution is that legislators may not receive travel and living expenses during the times that the Legislature is in recess for more than three calendar days, unless the legislator is attending official legislative functions.
A statute is required to prescribe the details of this provision of the state Constitution. In that regard, Government Code Section 8902 provides that, during those times that a Member of the Legislature is required to be in Sacramento to attend a session of the Legislature and during those times that a member is attending legislative functions, the legislator is entitled to be reimbursed for living expenses at a rate that is established by the Department of General Services.
There are only 10 states, including California, that are considered to have full-time Legislatures. Nonetheless, 41 of the states pay per diem to their state legislators. While 9 states do not, 2 of those states have an expense allowance and 1 of those states reimburses legislators for expenses incurred for food and travel. As such, 44 states make per diem payments to their legislators even though less than a quarter of those states are full-time legislatures.
The following is a list of some of the states with the highest per diem payments to their legislators:
Finally, most states provide a retirement plan for their legislators, even those that are not full-time Legislatures, but California does not.
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