EDITORIAL: Limiting Pay Might Help Limit Sessions
In addition to their salaries, North Carolina's state legislators get $104 a day in "per diems" -- whether or not they show up for work.
Must be nice.
A little too nice, says state Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, who reasons that limiting the number of days N.C. state senators and representatives can collect expense money would have the effect of limiting the length of legislative sessions. And that, in Hamlet's words, is generally "a consummation devoutly to be wished."
Under present policy, legislators receive the $104 dole to cover expenses for housing and meals every day the General Assembly is technically in session. That applies even if it's the weekend and they're sitting at home -- and even if the legislature is on an extended break. And that comes on top of their annual salary of nearly $14,000.
A bill introduced by Rand, which has already passed the Senate and is up for a vote in the House, wouldn't necessarily end all such abuses. But it would limit the overall amount of per diem that an individual legislator could draw to $6,240 during short sessions and $14,040 during long sessions. That could still add up to as much as $2.3 million a year -- divided among 50 senators and 120 House members. Even if the legislature saw fit to meet for longer than that, the limit would stay in effect.
Newly elected state Rep. Jamie Boles, R-Moore, contacted Tuesday at his legislative office in Raleigh, said he had heard about the bill but didn't know enough about its provisions yet to take a position on the matter.
Nobody is begrudging Boles or his colleagues legitimate compensation for the days they spend on the job. Though some legislators have grumbled that the Rand proposal doesn't take into account situations when the governor calls the legislature into special session to consider particular issues, such sessions typically don't last long.
One advantage of the Rand bill is that helping keep the length of sessions under control would make service less onerous for legislators such as Boles, who aren't retired and still have careers to look after in the private sector. Anything that holds out promise of keeping membership in the General Assembly from creeping toward a full-time job in itself sounds like a good idea to us.
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