Re: The Biggest Faction in the General Assembly
The comments to Marc’s post on the number of General Assembly members who benefit from public pensions are understandable, but most miss the point. Cutting the General Assembly’s pay and authority isn’t going to address the essential problem — namely, that an official position that doesn’t pay much will attract those who have other motivations, including other ways to profit. It’s nice to think that “community service” will suffice, but devoting so many hours to such a position over a limited number of months per year puts quite a cost on that service. Retired teachers and such whose unions have given them so much have motivation to put in time for “union service,” but most Rhode Islanders simply cannot justify the time.
As to cutting the legislature’s authority, while that may be a laudable goal, we’d have to begin by cutting the government’s authority. Otherwise the power currently held by a large number of legislators would be given to a handful of administrators and bureaucrats. In other words, change in that direction would have to go in the other direction.
Frankly, I’d be willing to argue for paying the General Assembly members more given two reforms:
- Representation is aligned directly with cities and towns, making it clear whom members represent, and providing a clear path from local politics to state politics.
- The “part-time” of the legislature is spread out across the entire year, with fewer hours per week. In other words, make the schedule more in line with what working people can manage.
Unfortunately, the people who would have to enact such changes like their current advantage, so such reforms would be the project of decades, and I’m not sure Rhode Island has that long.