New Law Requires Board Regulation of Travel Reimbursement and Prohibits Certain “Entertainment” Expenditures
Jul 25, 2016
On July 22, 2016, Governor Rauner signed into law the Local Government Travel Expense Control Act. The law requires all school districts, community colleges and units of local government other than home rule municipalities to regulate by resolution or ordinance the reimbursement of all travel, meal and lodging expenses for its officers and employees. At a minimum the regulations must include (1) the types of official business for which travel, meal and lodging expenses are allowed; (2) the maximum allowable reimbursement for such expenses; and (3) a standardized form for use in obtaining reimbursement.
The regulations should provide that the form submitted for reimbursement must be supported by certain information, at least including the name and title of the requestor, a cost estimate of expenses not yet incurred or a receipt if expenses have been incurred, and the date or dates the expenses were or will be incurred. The law contemplates public bodies adopting more stringent rules and restrictions on travel related expenses for officials and board members.
The Act also prohibits local public agencies from reimbursing expenses for “entertainment,” which is specifically defined in the Act and includes things like shows and sporting events. Using language that is bound to create uncertainty, excluded from the definition—and therefore reimbursable—is entertainment expenses that are “ancillary to the purpose of the program or event.” Until there is some additional guidance by case law, what is “ancillary to the purpose of the program or event” should be a common sense determination made on a case by case basis.
Starting September 20, 2016 (60 days after Act was signed), a roll call vote of the governing board is required for approval of the expenses of an officer or employee that exceeds the maximum allowable reimbursement. Additionally, starting September 20, 2016, all expenses, regardless of amount, must be approved by roll call vote for any member of the governing board. The new law makes clear that all documents and information submitted under the Act are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
On and after January 18, 2017 (180 days after Act was signed) no travel, meal or lodging expenses can be approved or paid unless regulations have been adopted by the local public agency. Given the upcoming deadlines, it is important for local Boards to not delay in considering—and implementing—the required regulations.