If you work for a private employer and want to be reimbursed for the mileage you've accumulated driving your car on company business, your employer asks for details of your trips for obvious reasons.
Last time we checked, state lawmakers work for the citizens of California. But does that mean the public can learn where lawmakers are driving on the public dime? Not easily, and not without a fight. Senate and Assembly leaders have denied records requests by The Bee to review mileage logbooks for legislators. Those logbooks detail how lawmakers piled up $450,000 in driving expenses in the last legislative year, receiving reimbursement of 53 cents a mile.
The refusal of lawmakers to provide details on this driving is telling. It suggests they consider themselves above any public need to account for how they expend our money. Their attitude is "trust us." Sorry, but you've burned that trust too many times.
Officials in both houses denied release of the information on the grounds it could compromise the security of lawmakers since the logbooks include specific addresses. If that is the case, then modify the logbooks to provide general information "home to Kiwanis Club luncheon," for example. Refusal to provide any information leaves open the possibility shocking as it is that some lawmakers are using state money on campaign events.
Most lawmakers, we suspect, don't abuse the mileage reimbursement process. Many have big districts and spend a lot of time traveling around them, meeting with constituents. But by refusing to release records of those travels, lawmakers thumb their noses at the kind of accountability that applies to everyone else.
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