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Travel Expense Reporting Legislation Signed into Law

July 28, 2016 | Legislative briefs

The Local Government Travel Expense Control Act (P.A. 99-604) requires formal approval for travel expenses as well as meal purchases. The law provides that local public agencies regulate the reimbursement of all travel, meal and lodging expenses of officers and employees. The Illinois Municipal League developed the following analysis for the benefit of our members.

The law provides that local public agencies (i.e. school districts, community college districts, counties, non-home rule municipalities and townships) shall, by resolution or ordinance, regulate the reimbursement of all travel, meal, and lodging expenses of officers and employees. Ordinances or resolutions must specify the following: (1) the types of official business for which travel, meal, and lodging expenses are allowed; (2) the maximum allowable reimbursement for travel, meal, and lodging expenses; and (3) the creation of a standardized form for submission of travel, meal, and lodging expenses. The ordinance or resolution may allow for approval of expenses that exceed the maximum allowable reimbursement because of emergency or other extraordinary circumstances. This resolution or ordinance must be approved by the local public agency prior to June 29, 2017. If the ordinance is not approved, no travel, meal or lodging expenses will be permitted to be paid by the local public agency.

Beginning March 1, 2017, all travel, meal, and lodging expenses that exceed the maximum allowable reimbursement as stated in the local ordinance or resolution, or any expenses submitted by a member of the governing board, must be approved by a roll call vote. Approval of reimbursement may only occur after specified documentation has been submitted. Documentation includes (1) an estimate of the cost of travel, meals or lodging if the expenses have not yet been incurred, or a receipt of those costs if the expenses have been incurred; (2) the name and job title of the individual requesting the reimbursement; and (3) the date of travel and a description of the event. The approval by the governing board may occur either before or after the travel occurs. All documentation submitted as proof for reimbursement shall be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

It should be noted that the dates appear to be irreconcilable in that the reporting requirement takes effect prior to the latest permissible date for passing an ordinance or resolution. What these dates suggest, however, is that all travel expenditures incurred on or after March 1, 2017 must go before the board unless the expenses are below the amount specified in an ordinance or resolution passed by the public body. This certainly provides an incentive to approve an ordinance or resolution prior to March 1, 2017 so as to avoid having to take every travel expense before the board for a formal vote.

This legislation prohibits reimbursing entertainment expenses for all local public agencies. “Entertainment” is defined to include shows, amusements, theaters, circuses, sporting events or any other place of public or private entertainment or amusement unless ancillary to the purpose of the program or event.

This legislation does not pre-empt home rule powers.

Originally, P.A. 99-604 would have required every travel expense, including all travel expenses from employees, to be approved by the governing board. Prior to becoming a Public Act, HB 4379, was sponsored in the House by Representative David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills and Senator Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park).

Media stories about local government travel and meal expenses served as the impetus for the bill.

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