- Associated Press - Monday, June 25, 2018

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin taxpayers spent nearly $41,000 to send state senators on out-of-state trips since 2015, including to President Donald Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress.

The Associated Press obtained documents Monday through an open records request that show taxpayers paid $40,837 on senators’ travel, including $966 to send Republican Sen. Steve Nass to Trump’s 2017 appearance before the House and Senate.

The records show five other Republican senators and six Democratic senators have been reimbursed for travel expenses since 2015. The three largest payouts went to Democratic Sen. Fred Risser. He was reimbursed $3,895 for attending a Uniform Law Commission conference in Vermont in July 2016; $3,291 for a ULC meeting in San Diego in July 2017; and $3,145 for an August 2015 National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in Seattle.

The Uniform Law Commission describes itself on its website as an organization that provides states with uniform legislation that “brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law.” NCSL is a bipartisan organization that supports state legislatures with research on laws and policies.

Risser aide Terry Tuschen said in an email that Risser is a ULC commissioner. Commission meetings can last as long as six days and Risser believes it’s important to stay for as much of the gathering as possible. He doesn’t plan to attend this year’s meeting. As for the NCSL meeting, Tauschen said again that Risser feels it’s key to stay for as much of the meeting as possible.

The rest of the senators’ destinations included conferences in Minneapolis, New York, Virginia, Utah, Florida, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and California.

Republican Sen. Chris Kapenga was reimbursed nearly $90 this past January for costs associated with touring a Tesla facility in Chicago. Kapenga co-authored a bill last session that would have allowed the electric car maker to open dealerships in Wisconsin. The bill never got a floor vote.

The senators’ reimbursements were less than half of the reimbursements their Assembly counterparts have collected over the same time period. Records in that chamber show taxpayers have spent more than $98,000 to send Assembly members to out-of-state events since 2015.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has been under scrutiny for his travel, including trips paid for completely by lobbyists and other groups. The Assembly records covered only travel reimbursed by taxpayers.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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This story has been corrected to reflect that Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress wasn’t a State of the Union address.

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