Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Are our State Legislators Becoming Too Elitist?

by jwright
In an recent article published here from the Oakland Press, Pontiac, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, proposed that legislative term limits (implemented by the voters in 1992) should be rescinded because the state lawmakers don’t have time to do the people’s business. Their top priority, running for reelection, takes up too much of their time. Doing the people’s business came in a distant fourth.

It’s my understanding that their “top priority” was attending to the people’s business, that of representing and governing. For that they are paid a healthy $79,650.00 base salary (the second highest in the nation for state legislators) plus benefits and perquisites; all that for investing about 800 hours annually, or about 20 normal workweeks. They refer to that as “full-time,” and in doing so, Michigan is one of eleven states that have a full-time legislature. Additionally, if they serve for six years they are eligible to receive full pay at retirement.

Bishop also proposes that the legislature only serve “half-time.” It appears that’s the case already. Would his proposal also cut their salaries and benefits in half? The article didn’t say.

If our legislators haven’t the time to tackle and solve the steep learning curve in Lansing, and if running for reelection actually is their “top priority” upon taking office, then we as voters have been electing the wrong people.

As far as rescinding legislative term limits, it was reported a few weeks ago that 2/3 of the Michigan voters still approved of them, so why should we sit back and allow a few legislators in Lansing to overturn the voter’s will, especialy when it calls for amending the state constitution?
Perhaps an overhaul is needed, perhaps more drastic than Senator Bishop had in mind. Like others, I’m in favor of disbanding the State Senate altogether and forming a unicameral legislature limited to a six month annual session. That would be a start.

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