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Legislators curb expenses

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Legislators filed claims Monday for monthly expenses for the first time since a lawsuit was filed by the Arkansas Public Law Center challenging the flat monthly reimbursement scheme as an unconstitutional salary supplement.

The number isn't large, but there have been changes in reimbursement patterns since the possibility of a lawsuit was raised several months ago and more since it actually was filed.

The Senate is standing firm. Thirty-four of 35 members continue to draw the flat monthly expenses without itemization as the Constitution seems to require. Sen. David Johnson of Little Rock has never drawn the money.

In the House, 11 of 100 members depart from the standing pattern in various ways. Nate Steel of Nashville has never taken the money; John Edwards of Little Rock stopped taking it in March; Justin Harris of West Fork stopped filing in April, and Andy Mayberry of Little Rock discontinued payments June 30. Duncan Baird stopped taking the payments in July. Both Tim Summers of Bentonville and Charlie Collins of Fayetteville terminated their monthly contract in September. Jody Dickinson of Newport, Jeremy Gillam of Judsonia, Kim Hammer of Benton, Bryan King of Green Forest, Jim Nickels of Sherwood and John Vines of Hot Springs did not file for expenses in September. David Meeks of Conway and Kathy Webb altered their expenses contracts to allow payments "up to" fixed amounts, but Meeks claimed the full $2,050 in September while Webb made no claim for expenses for the month.

The nonprofit Public Law Center named two representative lawmakers in the suit — a Republican and a Democrat, one each from the House and Senate. Both of them, Rep. Ann Clemmer of Benton and Sen. Jerry Taylor of Pine Bluff continued claiming their full monthly expenses without itemization, $2,200 and $2,350 respectively.

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