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Issues, Legislative Compensation

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As prescribed by Article VII Section 7, of the Minnesota Constitution, the beginning of the year "commences on the first Monday in January." Pursuant to Article IV, Section 12, the legislature meets in regular session for no longer than 120 days and must adjourn by "the first Monday following the third Saturday in May." Special sessions "may be called by the governor on extraordinary occasions." According to Article IV, Section 9, the compensation of state legislators is prescribed by law. In other words, legislators get to decide how much to compensate themselves! When is the last time that you gave yourself a raise or told your employer that they must pay for your transportation or lunch? Jim Martin wants to not only require changes in legislative compensation to be ratified by the public, but also to require their compensation to be clearly defined in the Minnesota Statutes, not buried deep in an un-codified act or held exclusively in the archives of a legislative committee.

Salaries Of Minnesota Officials As prescribed by Minnesota Statute section 15A.082, the Compensation Counsel is convened every even-numbered year (election year) to aid the legislature in defining the compensation of our heads of state. After making their recommendation, the legislature takes action. As required by Article IV, Section 9, of the Minnesota Constitution, "No increase of compensation shall take effect during the period for which the members of the existing house of representatives may have been elected." In other words, an increase in compensation takes effect after the next general election. Theoretically, the members of the elected body that increase the compensation do not benefit from their own action. In practice, however, many legislators that increase compensation get re-elected so the conflict remains: instead of legislators asking their employers for a raise, they give it to themselves.

Be assured that your employer can easily find the wage and benefits that they pay you as an employee. Why, then, is the wage and benefit of our employees not readily accessible? Minnesota Statatute section 3.099, subdivision 1, states clearly that a per diem may be set by the Minnesota Senate and House for its respective membership. As prescribed by Minnesota Statatute section 3.101, living expenses are also set by the Senate Committee On Rules & Administration and the House Committee On Rules & Legislative Administration. Through these statutes, our legislators define what daily expenses we taxpayers will compensate them without actually passing an act! As of the date this was written, Jim Martin was unable to find any law or statute clearly defining any legislative compensation. He did, however, find a document that suggested the salaries of state officials (not including per diem), and a retirement program defined by Minnesota Statatute chapter 3A.

Jim Martin has drafted a bill to address this issue. Per the standards of legislative drafting, the language in statute to be removed is crossed out and the language to be inserted is underscored.

Tell us how you feel about the legislature setting its own compensation.


Public Comment Agreement

Name:
City:
Comment:

"If people were given the opportunity to set the pay of our legislators, I don't think they would pay them anything."
- Sara, Lakeland. 29 July 2010.

"Thank you for your comments, Sara! Respectfully, I disagree. I believe that Minnesotans understand the job of our legislators and know their value. When given the opportunity, I believe Minnesotans will ratify their requests to be reasonably compensated."
- Jim Martin, Lake Elmo. 2 August 2010.