Michigan Should Have a Part Time Legislature

This is a movement that I have supported especially since the budget crisis last year.  In 2007, the House of Representatives spent 134 days in session with the Senate having 132 days.  In 2006, the House spent 95 and the Senate spent 98 days.  In 2005, the House was in session for 110 days and the Senate 113 days.  Legislatures are paid $79,650 per year with $12,000 yearly expense allowance for session and interim (vouchered) set by compensation commission.

Henry Woloson, a lawyer from Clarkston, wrote into the Detroit Free Press (http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071114/OPINION02/711140332/1068/opinion) in November of last year.  Woloson was fed up of the way that the Michigan Legislature was being run:

How can Michigan taxpayers justify the cost of our full-time Legislature, one of only four such lawmaking bodies in the nation?

The 46 states with part-time legislatures managed to pass their required budgets on schedule. Michigan’s 148 full-time lawmakers, with extensive recesses and vacations, needed 30-day emergency budget extensions, midnight madness sessions, and special-interest coordinated tax sales to produce the budget mess that is likely to be at least partially repealed.

Adding political insult to taxpayer injury, Michigan, with a population of about 10 million, has 23% more legislators than California, population 36 million, and the only state paying its legislators more than us.

And this is Woloson’s plan that he wants to put on the 2008 November ballot:

[L]egislative sessions would be limited to 90 days between Jan. 1 and April 30 each year. Special sessions could be called, but, with no additional compensation, these would hopefully be rare.

Other provisions include: 1) Elimination of lifetime benefits for legislators. 2) Freezing salaries pending later review. 3) Downsizing the Legislature from 148 to 100 members (75 representatives and 25 senators). Estimated annual savings: more than $30 million.

Additional items being considered for inclusion in our proposal: 1) Extending term limits to 12 years for voters who value legislative experience. 2) Having the terms of both representatives and senators be four years with one-half of each group standing for election every two years.

A companion plan to extend the state sales tax to campaign advertising might best be a separate ballot proposal. Since nearly $200 million was spent in Michigan on political campaigning in 2006, a 60% increase from 2002, this would be a fairer and more collectable source of revenue than taxing tattoos, baby shoe bronzing, escort services, etc.

Woloson will have 180 days to get 300,000 signatures once he begins collecting.  You can contact Woloson at hwoloson@ameritech.net

Here’s what I would at least like to see happen:

  • Cut the pay of the legislators – they are incredibly overpaid.  These are some stats that I found about other states that are full-time legislature states (and these were just the easiest to find.  I’ve spent about 3 hours looking through different details and roll calls of different states, and I haven’t been able to come up with many results about how many days are spent in session):
    • Wisconsin spends 62-92 days (depending on how long it takes to pass the budget) and their legislatures make $47,413 a year.
    • Illinois had 143 House sessions and 119 Senate sessions, yet they only make $57,619 per year.
    • Pennsylvania had 91 sessions and their legislators are paid $73,613 per year (that’s a little high in my opinion).
  • I really don’t see the need to shorten the period of time that the legislators meet, as long as their pay is cut.  I think about 100 sessions is perfectly long enough for the state to get stuff done, so if we want to set a limit, I’d say set it at that.
  • We do need to downsize the legislature to at least 125 members.
  • Get rid of the LIFETIME health benefits.
  • An interesting idea proposed by the Arizona legislature (House Bill 2157): Miss a vote, forfeit that day’s pay.  (see more here: http://ncsl.typepad.com/the_thicket/2008/01/vote-or-pay.html)
  • If we cut the number of legislators down to 125 and cut their pay to $65,000, that alone would take the cost from $11,788,200 to $8,125,000, a difference of $3,663,200 a year.  Then we could get rid of the lifetime health benefits (their public servants, not welfare dependants).  Get rid of some staff – we have WAY too many!

Here are some interesting websites to check out:

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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