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Update: GA Senate leaders ban out-of-state, end-of-term trips funded by taxpayers

The resolution comes after several state leaders, included outgoing Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, went on an economic development trip to Europe

ATLANTA — Update: The Senate passed SR 334 Tuesday by a vote of 54-0.

Original story: Georgia Senate leaders are aiming to ban the lieutenant governor and state senators from taking taxpayer-funded, out-of-state trips near the end of their terms in office.

Senate President Pro Tem John Kennedy (R-Macon) filed the resolution Tuesday to ban the use of Senate funds on these trips. 

The proposed rule change in SR 334 would prevent those elected officials from taking out-of-state taxpayer funded under the following circumstances:

  • if the trips six months before their term is set to end 
  • if the person lost an election or is no longer a candidate

The resolution would also ban senate staff members from international travel funded by the chamber. 

It's unclear when the rule change could come for a vote, but it could make it to the chamber floor before the end of the session later this month. 

11Alive reached out to Kennedy's office for a comment. This story will be updated once a response is received.

The proposal comes after outgoing Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and then-Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller led a 14-person delegation on an economic development trip to Germany and the United Kingdom just before the pair was set to leave office. 

Senate staffers as well as several former and current state lawmakers were on the Nov. 12-19 trip, including current Democratic Senators Emanuel Jones, Sheikh Rahman and Sonya Halpern as well as Republican Sen. Clint Dixon.  

A Senate investigation ordered by Kennedy and current Lt. Gov. Burt Jones found that nearly $88,000 was pulled from the Senate's administrative budget to fund the trip. Another roughly $2,400 came from the Lieutenant Governor's office, according to the report issued March 1. 

The investigation was unable to confirm reports that an estimated $9,800 was spent on a two-person security detail.   

According to the report, the expenses for the trip should not have been approved by a Senate committee that Miller chaired. The report also recommended changing the chamber's travel policy and how it tracks spending.

"It is clear to us that (Miller and Duncan's) presence on the Study Committee’s European trip had little, if any, connection to (duties) and did not clearly serve to advance any known educational, legislative, or economic development purpose," the report reads.

As of April 1, all out-of-state travel expenses paid for using Senate and the Office of Lieutenant Governor funds will be itemized and posted on the Senate’s website, according to the report. Georgia's General Assembly is exempted from the state's open records law.

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