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Glenn Hegar  ·  Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Discounts and travel expenses at no cost
Discounts for frequent use of a commercial lodging establishment

A 1984 opinion issued by the State Ethics Advisory Commission limits the use of travel discounts or bonuses earned from travel paid with public funds. Such a discount or bonus can only be used for a private purpose if it cannot be used for a public purpose. Each agency must determine whether a discount or bonus can be used for a public purpose.

Further clarification is given in the Texas Penal Code Section 39.02, which criminalizes a state employee's misuse of government property or other things of value belonging to state government that come into the employee’s possession by virtue of the employee’s office or employment. However, this section also states that a discount or award given for travel, such as frequent flyer miles, rental car or hotel discounts or food coupons, are not things of value belonging to the government for purposes of the section. This is due to the administrative difficulty and cost involved in recapturing the discount or award for a governmental entity.

For more information about this subject, please contact the Texas Ethics Commission, the attorney general or other appropriate legal counsel.

Commercial Lodging Establishment
(1) a motel, hotel, inn, apartment, house or similar establishment that provides lodging to the public for pay; or (2) a person or establishment that provides lodging for pay that the Comptroller determines to have a sufficient number of the characteristics of a commercial lodging establishment for the purposes of the Travel Regulations Act. Texas Government Code Section 660.002(5) The term includes lodging provided by: (1) a governmental entity on property controlled by that entity; or (2) a religious organization on property controlled by that organization; or (3) a private educational institution on property controlled by that institution.
State Employee
An individual employed by a state agency, including a key official. Texas Government Code Section 660.002(20) The term includes prospective state employees and aircraft pilots.
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
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