An interested voter sends me this question through my campaign contact form:
What are your thoughts on increasing the pay for legislators, or even going to more of a full-time legislature? It seems like the current structure makes it difficult for people who are not business owners to join the Legislature [voter question, 2016.10.04].
I won’t spend much time raising legislator pay until I know we’ve raised teacher pay enough to be competitive.
That said, the same market forces apply to recruiting legislators as to recruiting teachers. As you suggest, if the pay and the hours don’t compensate people for the sacrifice they make to serve, you’ll have fewer talented people making that sacrifice. More pay and better hours mean more applicants for any job. And I agree with you that the current schedule and pay make it hard for anyone other than retirees or business owners who can set their own schedules to run and serve. Even for business owners, it’s tough having to put business on hold or find someone else to run the shop in from mid-January to mid-March.
I wouldn’t support going full-time… simply because we probably don’t need legislators meeting ten or twelve months a year. But I have suggested a “National Guard” schedule: spread those 35–40 Sessions out across a weekend or two a month, then wrap up with a two-week solid meeting in early June, after school lets out. That would allow more working folks to stick with their regular jobs, take just a couple days off a month from the office, arrange child care, etc. It would also give legislators more time to check in with voters and seek input while bills are moving through the Legislature. Voters would have more time to study bills, launch grassroots campaigns for or against bills, and go to Pierre to testify. The National Guard schedule might require moving the start of our fiscal year to August or September, but that’s not impossible [Cory Allen Heidelberger, response to voter question, 2016.10.05].
I’m open to your thoughts. Legislators and candidates, would a Weekend Warrior schedule make it easier for you to serve in Pierre? Voters, could you stand a Session with the same number of days spread out over, say, a six-month period?