The Texas Ethics Commission gave approval on Friday to a $40 increase in what lawmakers are given to cover daily expenses while in Austin, which amounts to a $5,600 increase in their pay over the course of the 140-day regular session.
Lawmakers are paid an annual salary of $7,200. In addition, they receive the per diem, which will be $190 a day, up from $150. Over the course of a regular legislative session, they will receive $26,600 for daily expenses. They also receive per diems during special sessions.
The ethics commission had originally proposed increasing the per diem to $210. But it revised that to $190 at the insistence of legislative leadership.
Under state law, increasing the per diem triggers an increase in the amount of money lobbyists can spend on meals for lawmakers before they have to submit a detailed report on the expense. The threshold for detailed reports is 60 percent of the per diem.
The vote on Friday increased that threshold from $90 to $114. Lobbyists would still have the ability to split meal tickets multiple ways to spend more on a lawmaker without triggering the reporting requirement.
House Administration Chairman Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, has filed legislation that would de-link the detailed reporting requirements from legislative per diems. Under his bill, that threshold would be set at $50.