A former Professor of mine from Kennesaw State, Kerwin Swint, has a nice piece regarding the $100 lobbyist cap in Georgia.  It ends with this summation:

After all, every Georgian’s real fear should be that the state of Alabama has stronger ethics laws than the Peach State.

You know, I get why some members of the General General Assembly, like Speaker Ralston, might not favor a $100 cap on lobbyist giftsMembers of Georgia’s General Assembly only get paid $17,342 per year plus a per diem for travel and expenses…  now, some law makers abuse that per diem thing… but lets face reality, when dealing with lobbyists being paid far more than they are, some legislators might feel that their power is overshadowed by the money of a lobbyist.  I mean, who wouldn’t feel somewhat indebted to someone that sent them and their family on a $17,000 vacation to Europe?  Seriously, if anyone of you want me to be in debt to you, feel free to send me and my family on a $17,000 vacation to Europe anytime!  Heck, I’ll even save you the trouble of figuring out hotel accommodations and airfare…  just give me the $17,000 in cash, I’ll take care of the rest.

But seriously people, there’s an easy solution to this.  So Ralston and his buddies don’t want to give up their unlimited lobbyist gifts, but they also want to maintain the whole “we only get paid 17K a year line” — well, you can’t have both…  but what we should have is a fair and ethical system.  We should also have a system that doesn’t allow just lawyers or folks in retirement to govern…  now, all love to my lawyer friends, all love to my retired friends…  I’ve got no problem with you guys…  but seriously, I could not afford to be a member of the Georgia General Assembly, neither could my mechanic or anyone who is a member of a working family that has to provide that isn’t in a profession that runs on that persons own schedule.

So lets make the system fair, lets give legislators a living wage…  something they can actually survive on, cause lets be honest, a “part-time” job that requires you to be in downtown Atlanta for 4 months a year, at community events, town halls, other legislative meetings, etc…  trying telling the General Manager at Chili’s you need that flexible of a schedule, you can’t get it…  and neither can most working Georgians.  For arguments sake, lets say we raise the annual salary of a member of the General Assembly to $40,000…  and lets give them a per diem based on how many miles they have to travel to the capitol for a session day (committees can meet via Skype or other methods), and none of these “committee of one” days, I’m talking legitimate in session media present days…  and I don’t mean $0.30 a mile, lets make it a reasonable rate so that those from Valdosta and such can get hotels when needed, etc…  but lets make it a set rate based on the distance of their home residence from the Capitol building, that will make that fair…  so lets call it $10 a day plus $0.60 per mile.  So if you live 1 mile away from the capitol, you get $10.60 a day so you can buy lunch…  if you live 300 miles away from the capitol building, you get $190 a day to help afford gas, hotel, etc…  and you ban lobbyists from giving any gifts to elected officials, because duh, we’re already paying for their lunch so that excuse is gone and if they want to see the Braves that bad then they can do like the rest of us and sit in the outfield.

There are two reasons the $100 lobbyist cap is facing backlash…  one is simple…  why would folks who can get $17,000 family vacations to Europe paid for ever want to give that up?  And…  if you get into the basic point of why Georgia has lax laws on this issue, it’s because of the minor amount of compensation a member of the legislature gets…  but goodness gracious, could you imagine if we increased the salary to a decent amount so that regular folks could actually have a place in the General Assembly…  we might end up with a government of the people, by the people, for the people… a very unique concept.


11 Responses to Living Wage for Legislators

  1. Drew says:

    Nah. Let’s continue to allow the $20 billion organization that is the state of Georgia to be run by workers paid little more than a fry cook at McDonald’s. Surely that is the path to excellence!

    Populist rhetoric about “public service” is pretty in theory, but ugly in practice: if your legislators are paid like fry cooks you’ll have fry cooks running your legislature. (Unless you have term limits, in which case you’ll have *inexperienced* fry cooks running your legislature.)

    If you want high-quality workers you have to pay for them. That is no less true of a legislator than it is any other worker. So make it a full-time job, with full-time pay – and limit outside sources of income, whether a gift from a lobbyist or anything else.

  2. Tim Cairl says:

    true nuff, the legislative wage was livable until reconstruction when it was cut back to a pittance. you can guess why i’m sure.

  3. Tim Cairl says:

    Why not just tie it to the person’s income anyway? So if you already make 80K+ per year you get only your per diem, no salary. If you make 15K a year then you get a full 17K + per diem. You know, a scalable salary.

    • Trevor Southerland says:

      I don’t think that’s particularly a bad idea… but it has even less of a chance than mine of getting through a GOP controlled legislature… and mine has a chance of 0.02% of passing.

    • I love what your time in Europe is doing to you. 😉

  4. bwinner says:

    You could leave the pay at $17k and pay it over four months so they had their entire pay during the session to use as needed. That’s $4250 per month of the session to help pay for housing, gas, hotels, food, etc. Seeing as how the session doesn’t start until mid January and usually ends before mid-April that should be plenty of funds to ease the pain of being a part time legislator.

    • Trevor Southerland says:

      That would be fine for the folks who can say on Jan. 3 “Hey boss/clients, I’ll be gone for most of the time til April, peace.”

      But for regular folks… mechanics, folks with any office job, restaurant employees, plumbers, electricians… crap, just about 90% of all jobs… they just can’t pull that… so the salary has to actually be something that makes it worth their while to look for new work every year.

    • ire says:

      Also there’s no telling how long the legislature will run for and if there is a special session etc.

  5. bob says:

    Concur with Julianal. These are part time legislators. And it’s called PUBLIC SERVICE. No one has forced these people to be legislators, and once they are in office, they hold on like grim death. It must not be THAT bad. Term limits and gift caps now!

  6. Julianal says:

    Well I could go along with this, but only if they didn’t serve longer than 40 legislative days a year and 4 terms.

    I certainly don’t want the session to be longer than it is, hell they already make a big enough mess as it is in 40 days.

    Four 2 year terms is plenty to get your name and “agenda” out there. After 8 years it’s time to call your service to the citizens done and move on.