No holiday for commission working on politicians' pay | Arkansas Blog

Monday, December 29, 2014

No holiday for commission working on politicians' pay

Posted By on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 11:33 AM

Little is on the schedule at the state Capitol this week, but the independent commission considering potential pay raises for legislators, statewide elected officials and judges will meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Room 272 of the Capitol.

The commission has a short time frame under the constitutional amendment approved by voters for deciding how much, if at all, pay for those elected offices should be raised and to make a recommendation on expenses for legislators.

The amendment established a commission appointed by the governor, House speaker, Senate president pro tem and Supreme Court Chief Justice. It meets once a year to decide if officials should get a pay raise. This year, the sky is the limit. In future years, pay raises are limited to 15 per cent.

I've written previously that pegging pay to the increase in the Consumer Price Index since voters last raised pay for elected officials would be a generous level, given that most working people haven't matched the CPI in their own earnings. I've also said that a state that ranks 48th in median family income shouldn't break the curve on official pay. And I've also said that legislators are currently abusing expenses through per diem claims for days not worked, through nepotistic payments to spouses as aides and through exorbitant mileage reimbursement. The commission has authority over pay. It can only recommend expense practices. I expect the commission to hear some recommendations on expenses, however, particularly in light of abuses recently uncovered by lawyers in an earlier successful legal action over expense account abuse.

The commission is supposed to take economic conditions into account. In sweeping elected offices this year, the new Republican majority spoke frequently about the poor performance of Gov. Mike Beebe in job creation. The GOP candidates also ran on the poor economic performance of the country in general under President Obama. And they decried wasteful government spending. So you'd think the GOP majority would welcome a commission pay decision that took all these factors seriously into account in holding down windfall raises for politicians who ran for office knowing the terms of employment. The Republican Party also, as a matter of party position, opposed this amendment.

The commission has 90 days after the amendment took effect Nov. 5 to complete its review and make a recommendation. The pay raises, if any take effect 10 days after filing with the state auditor.

The amendment, on the ballot as Issue 3, also ends gifts of any value by lobbyists or those who employ lobbyists to legislators, except at so-called scheduled events. Already, special interests are lining up to feed the entire legislature three times a day and provide a cocktail hour each night of the session. The Ethics Commission has yet to codify this section of the amendment as rules. They'll be under pressure to codify them loosely, which was not the intent of the framers.

Before it's over, I think we can expect a lawsuit on the change in term limits to allow 16 years of continual service (18 in the Senate in some cases) in the legislature. Some are trying to argue that past service doesn't count and the term limit counting begins anew, which would allow term-limited lawmakers back in for 16 more years. Nobody who participated in the drafting of this amendment thinks that was intended.

I expect a lawsuit eventually, too, on the  ban on corporate contributions. This could be the single most important element of the amendment in terms of legislative races if it remains in place.

The pay raise commission was essentially a sop to legislators to put the anti-gift rule on the ballot. Legislators believe people they appoint will believe they deserve much more money than they now receive. Several legislators have turned what's designed as a part-time assembly of citizen legislators into a full-time job. The more they meet, the more mischief is done — another reason to be stingy with pay increases.


Tags: , , ,


Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Among the last words from Kenneth Williams: 'Finger Lickin' Good Fried Chicken'

    What's purported to be a final-words essay from condemned prisoner Kenneth Williams was distributed today by Deborah Robinson, a freelance journalist in Arkansas.  He reflects on his execution, his victims, reactions of inmates and big servings of fried chicken, which he says are given to all inmates on execution days.
    • Apr 27, 2017
  • The LR chamber does the public's business. Is it accountable? Blue Hog on the case.

    Matt Campbell, lawyer and Blue Hog Report blogger, has sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Jay Chessir, director of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Mayor Mark Stodola related to the publicity stunt yesterday  built around withdrawing from the mayor's rash pronouncement that the city would seek an Amazon HQ2 project even though the city  didn't meet the company's criteria.
    • Oct 20, 2017
  • Presidential thriller, co-author Bill Clinton, coming to bookstores in 2018

    June 2018 is the expected publication date for a novel collaboration by former President Bill Clinton and crime writer James Patterson.
    • May 9, 2017

Slideshows

  • Arkansas vs Ole Miss at War Memorial stadium in Little Rock, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. After leading for much of the game, Arkansas lost 37-33 when Ole Miss scored the game winning Touchdown with less that 2 minutes left. 
  • Margaret Clark Adventure Park
    New sculptures, preschoolers play area dedicated in Riverfront Park in Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation