ATLANTA --- State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, received payment for the second-highest amount of taxpayer money -- $40,099 over 157 workdays -- of all House and Senate members during 2007, according to a Morris News Service review of lawmakers' expense records.
That's in addition to the $17,000 salary all state House and Senate members receive each year.
As House majority whip, Mr. Fleming is one of roughly a dozen lawmakers with the power to bill taxpayers for work beyond the 40-day session and days for committee work for which all lawmakers can request per diem payments. He used officials days 95 times in 2007, according to state records.
Mr. Fleming has the job of discussing and overseeing all legislation his party members consider introducing, and in 2007 was the chairman of a special committee that investigated a senior judge's handling of the long-delayed trial of accused courthouse killer Brian Nichols.
It's just part of the job, said Mr. Fleming of the extraordinary number of working days for which he sought reimbursement.
"When you're in leadership like me, it will soak up every ounce of time you give it," he said.
Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, tallied the most in per diem and expense reimbursements in 2007, spending $41,032 over 152 days, according to state records. Mr. Mullis, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, did not return calls seeking comment.
For the amount of work they do as part-timers, Georgia's legislators -- the good ones, at least -- aren't being paid too much, said Bill Bozarth, the executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Georgia.
"I've never believed the issue with any of our elected officials is that we overpaid them," Mr. Bozarth said.
One issue of concern, Mr. Bozarth said, is that lawmakers from metro Atlanta receive the same $173 per diem as those from far-flung portions of the state.
But metro Atlanta lawmakers pay income taxes on their per diem payments, while others are not required to.
The Augusta area is also home to another high-ranking House member, Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, who used $35,781 in tax money over 113 working days in 2007. Sixty-two of those days were related to crafting the state's spending plan via the House Appropriations Committee, which he heads.
With sway over where the state directs it money, Mr. Harbin was also the target of lobbyists, who spent $7,027.82 on him in 2007, including tabs for at least 70 meals and $1,650 in lodging expenses from Phillip Jennings Turf Farm, according to State Ethics Commission records.
2007 EXPENSES AND LOBBYING
|VALUE OF GIFTS|
|Rep. Jon Burns, R-Newington||$39,092.96||$1,251.12|
|Rep. Mickey Channell, R-Greensboro||$45,550.19||$5,761.63|
|Rep. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta||$41,833.63||$4,654.28|
|Rep. Barry Abbott Fleming, R-Harlem||$57,099.87||$5,960|
|Rep. Gloria Frazier, D-Hephzibah||$39,626.57||$554.79|
|Sen. Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville||$44,308.04||$561.18|
|Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans||$52,751.84||$7,027.82|
|Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta||$37,855.28||$282.51|
|Rep. Sistie Hudson, D-Sparta||$38,590.39||$204.98|
|Sen. Bill Jackson, R-Appling*||$11,575.19||$102.61|
|Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta||$40,083.48||$277.48|
|Sen. J.B. Powell, D-Blythe||$38,078.60||$231.64|
|Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta||$40,534.51||$1,763.69|
|Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta||$40,969.41||$818.76|
*Mr. Jackson was elected in a special election and did not serve a full term in 2007.
Note: House and Senate members had until Tuesday to submit 2007 expenses for reimbursement, so final figures might vary.