Saturday, March 10, 2007

As it ever was on Goat Hill

The Alabama Legislature was in rare form Thursday, even by its lofty standards. Sure, it's no surprise that lawmakers chose the worst of several possible approaches to the issue of legislative pay raises. But the impressive part is how they also handled the matter in the worst possible fashion.

Legislators could have made many Alabamians happy by leaving their pay unchanged. They also could have accompanied a raise with a measure converting their jobs into full-time positions. Instead, they went for the third way, voting to give themselves a roughly 62 percent pay increase but doing nothing to alter the part-time status that allows them to hold outside employment and opens the door to all manner of accusations of conflicts of interest.

It'd be bad enough if lawmakers approved that plan after extensive discussion, but this resolution escaped both chambers without a word of debate. Even worse, the proposal passed on a voice vote, meaning legislators didn't have to state a public position on the measure. Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom, Jr., provided fodder for opponents in a prospective 2010 gubernatorial run, gaveling the measure through the Senate despite reports that six senators -- two more than constitutionally necessary -- requested a recorded vote.

To say the least, the measure's supporters could have done a better job on the public-relations end. Then again, the truth of the whole spectacle may well look something like this assessment by Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman: "I can tell you 90 percent of the Senate is for this. I just wish they had the guts to vote how they really believe."

Now that would be a surprise.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Don said...

Brian, I’ll send you an email the contents of which are for your eyes only that is related to what you said here and in your prior linked post on this topic.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Don said...

I didn't mean "Brian". Now I'll have to see if I can find how to send an email to you.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Kathy said...

I can't see the legislators voting themselves into full-time employment. As you say, they have far too many opportunities to double-dip now. And, if we had full-time legislators, that would mean anybody could run, get elected, and serve -- and we don't want that, do we?

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Don said...

If being in the legislature became a full time year around job the double-dippers that are there now and have been for too long (and have been voting for appropriations going to their regular “day job” state employers) would have to choose whether to try to remain in the legislature and give up their day jobs or to be legislators. Most legislators, whether double-dippers or not, make more money on their day jobs than they do in the legislature, so they would have to make a choice between money and power instead of being able to have both as they do now.

Go over to Doc’s Political Parlor (http://www.politicalparlor.net/wp/posts-from-the-legislature/) and read what Rep. Cam Ward says about how he has to juggle his responsibilities on his day job and those of being a legislator. No one can give proper attention to both jobs at the same time. If he were a full time legislator he would be able do devote more attention to legislation. I know, because they’ve had to admit it, that many legislators don’t even know what’s in bills that they vote on because they don’t have the luxury of time to give them proper study and thought, So, they have to vote according to how lobbyists tell them they should vote. Then, when someone asks them why they voted for a bill that contained certain undesirable items that’s when they say it was because they didn’t know that particular item was in the bill.

Government is never run as well as most businesses. What business would try to operate with part time supervisors and administrators and hope to be successful? The legislature should be run more like a business because it conducts the people’s business, but in a haphazard manner when legislating is a part-time job.

But, as Kathy said, don’t look for the legislators to make their job a full time one. That will have to be done some other way. Maybe if the Alabama Constitution is re-written someone will include this issue in the new one.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Kudos to Bob Riley for threatening to veto, which they could over-ride, but they'd have to go on the record to do it. Unless there's some other work-around that will preserve their anonymity...?

The Congress did it something like this years ago: "Do you mind if we raise your pay 62%?" YEA or NAY.

Later, on the campaign trail: "I voted NO on the pay increase measure in 2007!"

10:28 AM  

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