Connecticut Deserves a Fully Transparent and Deliberative Legislature

Last week, Fresh Talk from the Courant provides a partial case for a full-time Legislature: Connecticut Deserves A Full-Time Legislature <read>

However, we have seen too many talented people decline to run for the state legislature, instead campaigning for more prestigious federal or statewide positions.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 10 states have legislatures tha t operate full time or nearly full time. It is time for the Connecticut General Assembly to join its exceptional brothers and sisters in New York and Massachusetts and move to operating full time.

Of course a full – time legislature would come with a salary increase for its members. For taxpayers, this would be an investment worth making…

Additionally, the higher salary would increase the prestige of the position and attract high – caliber people who have otherwise declined to run for office. Corporate America knows that to attract high – quality workers, you must pay high – quality wages…

There is currently little incentive for a Connecticut resident making the median $65,400 a year to run against a state representative and take a $37,000 pay cut if the challenger wins…

Finally, by paying lawmakers more, the legislature could free itself from the artificial deadlines that have hamstrung its ability to tackle the state’s largest problems. A full-time legislature could go through the full procedure without leaving questions about the propriety of its process. Controversies about emergency certification and the mysterious materialization of keno in state law would become things of the past. Having extra days and months to get these right, along with giving the legislature time to face challenges that have been neglected, would be a worthwhile investment for taxpayers.

We agree with the basic reasons presented in the argument, yet there is more that should be required of a full-time, close to adequately compensated legislature. The days of the idealistic part-time citizen legislature, with farmers and shop-keepers taking a few days off for annual or biannual sessions is long gone. It takes three to five months in session, and most of the year in part-time constituent service and campaigning. There is some time for other things, like family and making an adequate living.

Currently the Legislature is over-weighted with those that can adjust their workload to fit the legislative calendar: lawyers and contractors; those with lower income requirements: singles, retired individuals, and those who are independently wealthy; and some whose employers wink at the time away from work, seemingly in anticipation of sympathetic lawmaking. I note, like the U.S. Congress, a lack of scientists and technical experts – perhaps full-time doew not turn a variety of individuals into successful politicians.

Beyond more time, we should demand more transparency, public notice, and public hearings. We are not satisfied with the ‘could’ in “A full-time legislature could go through the full procedure without leaving questions about the propriety of its process.” We are not so certain “Controversies about emergency certification and the mysterious materialization of keno in state law would become things of the past.”

Too often we have seen that extra section, known as a ‘rat’, stuck way down in a bill, voted on without public awareness and  little time for most legislators to know about it. Too often bills are changed dramatically by harried legislators based on public testimony or private conversations, without a chance for public airing of those changes, before they are passed by committee, or before the final vote in the House or Senate. No system is perfect, yet there needs to be more time from text to vote for the public and legislators, more public hearings when there are significant changes. That requires and deserves the time and attention of a full-time legislature.

PS: Unlike some we are against a smaller legislature, which would place more work on fewer individuals, provide for less points of view, and leave citizens with less influence on their representatives. We also have reservations on term limits which could deprive us of the most experienced legislators, while increasing the power of staff and the influence of lobbyists.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.