Lawmaker pay raises historically undesirable in Nevada

Legislature Opening Day

Legislature Opening Day Lance Iversen/ AP Assembly members applaud Republican John Hambrick after he was voted speaker at the opening of the Legislature in Carson City, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015.

Nevada lawmakers are paid about $9,000 for their work during the legislative session, a figure that those very same lawmakers have actually been reticent to raise, professionals say.

Legislators are paid for the first half of the 120-day session held every two years, in addition to a daily allowance for costs.

The pay is fairly low compared to some other states, such as California, where lawmakers are paid more than $100,000 annually, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Some political professionals argue that higher pay makes it possible for individuals who otherwise could not pay for to take time away from their tasks to serve.

But other scientists say greater pay does not immediately cause more socioeconomic variety in state legislatures and can motivate some legislators to make a career out of politics.

Nevada’s tight hang on legal pay is bound in a limited government mindset that stretches back to the constitutional convention, said Michael Green, UNLV associate history professor.

The initial constitution approved in 1864 restricted sessions to 60 days, paid lawmakers $60 per session for expenditures and included a $2 daily for the speaker of the Assembly, lieutenant governor and president of the Senate.

” It was partially that they didn’t expect the lawmakers to invest much time there, and it definitely wasn’t going to be their primary task, so paying them just a little bit was not a problem,” Green said. “Second, I believe part of the goal was to dissuade individuals from staying there too long.”

Nevada lawmakers are paid about $150 a day for the very first half of the session, with a $140 per diem for all 120 days. The state also reserves cash for interim committees that satisfy in between legal sessions to conduct research studies, keep track of legislation and make modifications to predicted versus real revenue and expenses, among other duties.

In the past, the state has actually looked at extending sessions, making them yearly and raising lawmakers’ pay.

Former state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, sponsored a costs in 2013 to raise legislators’ pay from $8,777 to $24,000 per session. The expense would likewise have needed yearly sessions and conferences outside Carson City if most of each party concurred.

But efforts to raise legislator compensation have normally been unpopular in Nevada, Green stated. Lawmakers increased pensions in 1989 and were met heavy opposition, stated Green and Michael Bowers, a UNLV political science teacher.

” I think many have the mindset that candidates understood the pay when they ran and by running they implicitly accepted it,” Bowers said.

The state tried to move toward meeting annually in 1960 by including a session dedicated completely to budget plan concerns, but riders and special tasks legislators attempted to attach to the legislation helped thwart the change, Green said.

” Traditionally, it does not get a lot of traction,” Green stated of such propositions. “I think that is a sign of officials here figuring the public is not too crazy about that.”

A study published in the American Government Evaluation in November 2016 says the theory that higher pay leads to greater economic diversity in state legislatures “does not hold much water,” wrote political researchers Nicholas Carnes of Duke University and Eric R. Hansen, now a teacher at Loyola University Chicago.

The researchers discovered the working class was least represented in states that paid legislators incomes of more than $75,000, with comparable outcomes after changing for aspects such as much heavier work.

” Information on the makeup of state legislatures in the late 1970s, the mid-1990s, and the late 2000s suggest that in states that use leaders higher incomes, working-class politicians are in fact crowded out by profession political specialists,” the report stated.

Green stated that while some research may challenge the link in between higher pay and economic diversity, it might still be the case. Bowers stated the time dedication is much more of an issue than pay in making legislatures more diverse when it pertains to race, ethnic culture and gender.

” Very few people can take 4 months away from their job every other year,” Bowers said. “Companies need them to be at their positions at all times.”

But such obstacles have not stopped the Nevada Legislature from becoming more diverse, Green said. The 2019 Legislature will be the first in the nation represented by a majority of ladies.

” The variety we’re now seeing I think shows our society more than anything about the pay or anything associated to it,” Green said.

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