Monday, September 27, 2010

Is it time for a part time Legislature?

From the Herald:

The Massachusetts Legislature - one of only nine full-time bodies in the nation - is basically a part-time gig for more than half of the state’s 200 lawmakers, who hold down demanding, time-consuming jobs outside the State House, many as private attorneys and business owners.

The Bay State Legislature also shuts down for months at a time as lawmakers stump for re-election or higher office. Meanwhile, legislators take twice as long as their part-time counterparts in other states to do the people’s business, while sticking taxpayers with double the tab for travel, office redecoration and salaries, a Herald review found.

Vacations also are frequent and plentiful. In addition to all national holidays and the oft-ridiculed Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill holidays, lawmakers have the same vacation schedule as schoolchildren. That means weeklong breaks every February and April and empty halls during the summer after the state budget is complete.

“In effect the Legislature is already doing part-time work - the only difference is they are getting paid for the full 12 months,” said David Tuerk of the Beacon Hill Institute.

Among the lawmakers with busy outside interests:
# Senator/undertaker Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), who raked in $96,074 as a lawmaker and also pocketed more than $100,000 running R.J. Ross Funeral Home.
# Representative/theater owner Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham), who earns up to $100,000 operating the independent Dedham Community Theater, on top of his $68,561 state salary;
# Representative/greasy-spoon operator Robert Fennell (D-Lynn), who raked in $68,561 as a lawmaker but also slings hash browns and pancakes as the owner of Capitol Diner in Lynn.
# Senator/defense attorney Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell), who earns $95,719 as Senate Ways and Means chairman, also takes in up to $100,000 a year running his own general law practice.
# Click here to view the payroll for the House of Representatives and State Senate.

Watchdogs say that more time spent in session doesn’t always mean better laws, and argue that Beacon Hill pols need tighter deadlines because they procrastinate until the last minute.

A classic example came this year when lawmakers scrambled to finish a bill legalizing casinos and slot parlors by July 31st - holding a rare formal session on a Saturday and working past midnight.

The casino bill never passed.

“The problem with a full-time Legislature is you have too much time. People operate on deadlines,” said Patrick E. Bauer, speaker of the House in Indiana, which holds sessions only four months a year.

Part-time legislators in Indiana cost their taxpayers only $24 million in salaries and operating expenses even though they craft a similar budget and serve about the same number of people. By comparison, Bay State taxpayers shelled out $51 million this year to pay for and maintain their full-time lawmakers.

The next time you hear one of the party loyalist say we need a full time legislature...know that we don't.


At September 27, 2010 at 2:23 PM , Blogger Framingham resident said...

I have no problem paying elected reps and senators a full time salary if they get the job done, even if they only work part time. I do have a problem with paying them a full time salary when they get nothing worthwhile accomplished in the few hours they do work.

At September 27, 2010 at 2:37 PM , Blogger Frustrated in Framingham said...

How can you possibly support part time legislators when they can not get anything accomplished now when they are supposedly full time? Do you think they will work harder if we tell them we are going to pay them less and call them part time employees?

At September 27, 2010 at 2:51 PM , Blogger 6th Middlesex constituent said...

Vote out the incumbents, including the incumbent party, and vote in responsible people who are not in this for a way to get a great pension and only work a few hours earning the pension. Hey, great scam if you can get away with it, of course, it does require you being a slime ball and unethical, but here in MA we seem to have no problem finding people with those 2 character traits. Part time job, and term limits are both long overdue for state reps and state senators here in the Bay State.

At September 27, 2010 at 3:26 PM , Blogger 50 stud said...

About time we had a legislature that is paid for the hours they work, not for their title. Sounds to me like MA does in fact have a part time legislature just as so many other states do. The difference is in MA, we pay those part time legislators a full time salary.

At September 27, 2010 at 3:55 PM , Blogger abby said...

I say yes, it is time for these positions to be part time. Being a state rep or senator was never suppose to be about making lots of money when our founding fathers designed this system of self government.

At September 27, 2010 at 3:59 PM , Blogger Abra said...

Part time and 2 terms, no more than 4 years. If other states can do it we can to.

At September 27, 2010 at 4:17 PM , Blogger John said...

Why do we have to pay them at all? They don't get anything done. They should be on commission like salesman. They get paid for the number of bills they actually vote on or something like that. Right now they have a cake walk, and they are enjoying every sweet bite of that cake.

At September 28, 2010 at 9:04 AM , Blogger Jim Pillsbury said...

If part time legislators work in other States, then I don't see why it can't work here. Our former rep went to the state house a total of 25 weeks last year. The rest of the time was spent doing doing what? Meeting with you and I? campaigning for Martha Coakley?

Why should they be any different than us and get part time pay for part time work?

It would be to much to ask them to take just a stipend, like New Hampshire, but a good case can be made, in these troubled economic times, paying lawmakers part time salaries might weed out the career politicians who get to Beacon Hill and never leave and force them to get things done in limited time frames.


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