TITLE 34. PUBLIC FINANCE

PART 1. COMPTROLLER OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

CHAPTER 20. STATEWIDE PROCUREMENT AND SUPPORT SERVICES

SUBCHAPTER E. SPECIAL CATEGORIES OF CONTRACTING

DIVISION 2. STATEWIDE PROCUREMENT DIVISION [STATE SUPPORT] SERVICES - TRAVEL AND VEHICLES

34 TAC §20.407, §20.408

The Comptroller of Public Accounts proposes amendments to §20.407, concerning Definitions, and §20.408, concerning Exceptions to the Use of Contract Travel Services. The comptroller also proposes to change the title of Subchapter E, Special Categories of Contracting, Division 2, from State Support Services - Travel and Vehicles to Statewide Procurement Division Services - Travel and Vehicles.

The amendments are proposed to clarify documentation requirements for state employees' use of travel services other than contract travel services.

The amendments to §20.407 add a definition of "overall cost of travel" that includes a number of elements that contribute to costs of employee travel.

The amendments to §20.408 clarify, in subsection (a), that state agencies may reimburse their employees for travel services other than contract travel services only if one or more specified exceptions apply; clarify, in subsection (b), the exception for lower overall cost of travel, which requires documentation and must be based on a consistent cost comparison methodology; clarify, in subsection (h), the scope of the emergency response exception; and require, in new subsection (j), documentation of necessity whenever an agency reimburses lodging costs at a rate that exceeds the maximum set in the regulations issued by the United States General Services Administration for a particular location, mirroring the requirement in General Appropriations Act (House Bill 1, 2019), Article IX, §5.05(a)(2). The title of §20.408 is amended to indicate that this section addresses requirements for higher cost of travel.

Tom Currah, Chief Revenue Estimator, has determined that during the first five years that the proposals are in effect, the rules: will not create or eliminate a government program; will not require the creation or elimination of employee positions; will not require an increase or decrease in future legislative appropriations to the agency; will not require an increase or decrease in fees paid to the agency; will not increase or decrease the number of individuals subject to the rules' applicability; and will not positively or adversely affect this state's economy.

Mr. Currah also has determined that the proposed amendments would have no significant fiscal impact on the state government, units of local government, or individuals. The proposed amendments would benefit the public by improving the clarity and implementation of the rules. There would be no anticipated significant economic cost to the public. The proposed amendments would have no significant fiscal impact on small businesses or rural communities.

Comments on the amendments may be submitted to Sarah Chacko at P.O. Box 13186 Austin, Texas 78711-3186 or Sarah.Chacko@cpa.texas.gov. Comments must be received no later than 30 days from the date of publication of the proposal in the Texas Register.

The amendments are proposed under Government Code, §§403.011, which outlines the general powers of the comptroller, 572.051, which requires each state agency to adopt a written ethics policy, and 660.021, which authorizes the comptroller to adopt rules to efficiently and effectively administer this chapter related to state employee travel costs.

These amendments affect Government Code, §660.07.

§20.407.Definitions.

The following words and terms used in this division are defined as follows unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

(1) Contractor--An individual or entity under contract with comptroller for the provision of travel services.

(2) Contract travel services--The travel services provided pursuant to comptroller contracts that guarantee prices and levels of services for all eligible entities and individuals.

(3) Force majeure event--Any acts of god, war, riot, strike, or other event beyond the control of a contractor and that could not reasonably have been anticipated or avoided and which, by the exercise of all reasonable due diligence, such contractor is unable to overcome.

(4) Official government business--Business required in the scope and course of the traveler's employment that is properly authorized by the employing governmental entity.

(5) Overall cost of travel--May include the actual costs to the state for travel, including flight or other mode of transport to the duty station, mileage, rental car, taxi, parking, tolls, lodging, meals in amounts less than or equal to the allowed per diem, and in some instances may also include travel time to duty station or other relevant factors directly related to the travel that are significant in the context of the overall cost of the travel event.

(6) [(5)] State agency--Any department, commission, board, office, council, or other agency in the executive branch of state government created by the constitution or by statute that is required to use contract travel services pursuant to Government Code, §2171.055.

(7) [(6)] State employee--Any person employed by a state agency, or an elected or appointed official.

(8) [(7)] State travel credit card--A credit card issued to an individual or a governmental entity by a contract travel credit card contractor.

(9) [(8)] State travel directory--A comptroller publication that lists current available contract travel services.

(10) [(9)] Traveler--Any person eligible to use contract travel services, including those eligible pursuant to the comptroller's travel allowance guide.

§20.408.Exceptions to the Use of Contract Travel Services and Higher Cost of Travel.

(a) Exceptions to use of contract travel services. In accordance with these rules and applicable statutes, state agencies may allow their employees to use travel services other than contract travel services only if one or more of the exceptions in subsections (b) through (i) of this section apply. [This section provides exceptions to use of contract travel services. These exceptions apply to the use of any contract travel services. When travel services are obtained at a lower total cost than the cost of contract travel services, no reporting of exceptions is required. Exceptions must be documented only when the total cost is greater than contract travel services rates.] Nothing in this section affects or alters the authority of the comptroller regarding travel reimbursement or audit of travel transactions [agreements].

(b) Lower overall cost of travel. The state agency obtains lower priced travel services through the use of fourteen day or other advanced reservations programs, promotional price reductions, or any method that provides a lower overall cost of travel. When a state agency uses any travel services obtained at a lower overall cost than the contract travel services price, the exception must be documented by the agency. The agency should document and follow a consistent cost comparison methodology. [Lower cost to the state. State agencies may use any travel services obtained at a price lower than the contract travel services price. State agencies are encouraged to obtain lower priced travel services through the use of fourteen day or other advanced reservations programs, promotional price reductions, or any method that provides a lower overall cost of travel.]

(c) Unavailability of contract travel services. The contract travel services are not available during the time or at the location necessary for the business purpose; or the contract travel service does not provide for the service required; or because the contractor is unable to provide the contract services due to a force majeure event.

(d) Special needs. The traveler's health, safety, physical condition, or disability requires accommodations, including medical emergency or other necessary services, not available from contract travel service contractors.

(e) Custodians of persons. The traveler has custody of a person pursuant to statute or court order and the traveler is required to provide a degree of security and safety that is not available from contract travel service contractors.

(f) In travel status. The traveler is in the course of travel and changes in scheduling render the use of contract travel services impractical or the appropriate travel services are not available. The traveler shall make reasonable efforts to secure rates equal to or lower than the contract travel service rates.

(g) Group program. The traveler is using a group program wherein reservations were made through a required source to obtain a particular rate or service.

(h) Emergency response. The traveler is responding to a public health or safety emergency situation and the use of contract travel services is not available or would result in an unacceptable delay.

(i) Legally required attendance. The traveler is required by a court, administrative tribunal, or other entity to appear at a particular time and place without sufficient notice to obtain contract travel services.

(j) Lodging reimbursement exceeding general services administration rates. If a state agency reimburses lodging at a rate exceeding the maximum set in the regulations issued by the United States General Services Administration for a particular location, the agency must document its determination that local conditions necessitate the higher rate for that location.

The agency certifies that legal counsel has reviewed the proposal and found it to be within the state agency's legal authority to adopt.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on February 10, 2020.

TRD-202000475

Don Neal

Chief Counsel, Operations and Support Legal Services Division

Comptroller of Public Accounts

Earliest possible date of adoption: March 22, 2020

For further information, please call: (512) 475-0387