We published two articles this week about a legislative conference held in Puerto Rico last month. You can see them here and here. The conference was put on by The Council of State Governments (CSG) and cost nearly $50,000 for 14 legislators to attend. And that’s obviously not including the $188,000 in dues paid to CSG.
In the latter article, we used a Facebook post from Rep. Thomas Beadle (R – District 27) to illustrate why some question whether lawmakers attend these things with state business on their mind or like something more of a vacation at the expense of taxpayers. As you’ll see below, Rep. Beadle posted a picture of he and his wife together in Puerto Rico celebrating their anniversary— which happened to coincide with the legislative conference he was attending.
While taxpayers didn’t pay for Mrs. Beadle’s expenses on the trip, we detailed the fact that Rep. Beadle’s lodging, airfare, per diem, registration fee, and some miscellaneous expenses were. A reality, given the totality of the situation, that might leave some feeling like taxpayers helped fund the Beadles’ anniversary trip.
In response to our article, we received the following message from Rep. Beadle and assured him we’d post it to the blog.
I saw your post about my wife and I and the CSG [trip] to Puerto Rico. I fully support holding legislators accountable for how taxpayer dollars are spent, and am happy to answer any questions you have.
Our anniversary happened to align with the conference, but by no means was that a motivating factor for us attending the conference. I regularly go to CSG conferences as I believe it is very important to learn about what other states are doing, find our best practices that we can implement here, and learn about mistakes they’ve made so we can avoid them. Conferences like this provide a great forum for those discussions to take place.
My wife attending with me was not unique, the majority of the legislators who were in attendance brought along a significant other as well, including the ND delegation. We 100% pay for all of her expenses, including her airfare, meals, and spousal convention registration. To my knowledge, all of the other spouses were paid for separately as well and I don’t believe any taxpayer money went to cover those costs for anyone.
I had been chosen to attend this conference due to my previous involvement in the CSG organization on the Economic Development committee, my status as an alum of the Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development through CSG’s Midwestern region, and due to their being numerous sessions on cyber security and data privacy at this conference, which is something that so have actively worked on in our assembly (including chairing the conference committee on the ITD Budget this last session and sponsoring a bill regarding data brokerage). Individuals are selected by the party leadership in their chamber with final approval falling to the chairman of Legislative Management. I submitted my notes from the conference to legislative council, but if you or anyone else would like to discuss this conference or others like it with me, I’m happy to do so.
Have a great day!
As you can see, Rep. Beadle’s response illustrates some of the things we’ve pointed out in regards to the issue. One of those is that this is largely a matter of perspective.
As I mentioned in a previous article, I don’t doubt that there’s some value to be found in these types of conferences. I’m just not convinced that taxpayers get what we’re paying for.
Puerto Rico wasn’t the only conference we’ve written about. There was also the $90,000 legislative summit in Nashville last August that, for some, looked like a party trip with lobbyists. That was hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
Between the dues we pay to CSG and NCSL, and the expenses associated with the two conferences we’ve written about, we’re talking a cost of roughly $450,000 to garner the consulting services that they offer. As I’ve said before, you’ll have to draw your own conclusions whether you think it’s worth it or not.
Furthermore, let’s consider the fact that the “majority of legislators” also “brought along a significant other”. Is it possible that this might actually substantiate concerns about these conferences being more of a vacation than state business, rather than alleviate them?
At the very least, I suppose we can hope that the policy ideas these legislators bring home are ones that result in less government, not more.
Having said all of this, congratulations to the Beadle’s on their five years of marriage. We hope that you enjoy many more together.
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