An issue that has my attention this week is an opinion that came out of the Texas Ethics Commission in August, EAO-484, which casts doubt on the legitimacy of reimbursing elected officials (judges, for my purposes) for their expenses to attend or speak at educational conferences. To quote the opinion, "the provision of transportation, meals, and lodging to an officeholder to facilitate the officeholder’s attendance at the event would constitute an officeholder contribution if the expenses are not reimbursable with public money."
So the key is whether the expenses in question are reimbursable with public money. The hardest part of that regimen is reimbursing food expenses. As the Comptroller's "Purchase Policies & Procedures Guide" states: "The attorney general has said that the Texas constitution prohibits a state agency from purchasing food, coffee, cream, sugar and similar items that employees of or visitors to the agency would consume."
I will advise if I hear more on this issue, which has sent a shiver through the purveyors of judicial branch education.