Appeals court rejects challenge to lawmakers' per diemby Elizabeth Stawicki, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that increases in per diem payments to state lawmakers don't violate the state Constitution.
Per diem is the amount legislators are reimbursed for their daily expenses such as meals and housing when they are on official business.
In 2007, lawmakers increased the maximum amount they can claim in per diem expenses. Senators can claim up to $96 a day in living expenses during the legislative session, while House members qualify for up to $77.
A group called Citizens for the Rule of Law sought to make lawmakers repay the state for their per diem, alleging that the higher payments amounted to a covert salary increase that is prohibited by the state Constitution.
The provision in question states that legislators are not allowed to raise their compensation during the term they are currently serving.
The court of appeals ruled that per diem payments don't qualify as compensation in the sense that they're benefits for services rendered. As a result, per diem payments, even when increased significantly, don't add up to more compensation.
The group filed the appeal after a Ramsey County judge dismissed the lawsuit last year.