The people of Jasper are truly grateful, I expect, to be informed on the health of the shellfish in the Gulf of Mexico, cited by their senator as an excuse for his taxpayer-paid trip to a conference in Newfoundland, Canada.
Sen. Randy Laverty's explanation for his need to attend the Energy Council meeting was among the most entertaining reasons lawmakers gave Dem-Gaz reporter Michael Wickline for his article this morning (subscription required) justifying their portion of the $4.7 million the state reimbursed legislators in 2010 for per diem, mileage and other expenses. Laverty pulled in the most, receiving $59,745, including $9,777 for his trip to Canada and other out-of-state conferences, records show. Eight lawmakers received reimbursements of more than $50,000.
Former state Rep. Ray Kidd of Jonesboro came in at No. 2, with $54,064 in per diem, mileage and other expense, including $2,674 to attend a Southern Legislative Conference meeting in July. That means he was able to use all the valuable information he gained there from July to December, when he was term-limited out. When Wickline asked him why he would attend a legislative conference — his days in the legislature over — Kidd said he'd do it again and hung up the phone.