Search This Blog

23.6.08

Legislators need to turn words into pay raise veto action

Maybe it was this excoriation exposing the utter lack of merit of his arguments for voting for and in accepting a pay raise, but something has changed the mind of state Rep. Frank Hoffman on this issue. A public apology has been issued by him expressing regret for the vote, now refusing the hike, and pledging to regain his constituents’ confidence. It’s not enough.

Whether his regret is sincere is debatable. For one thing, he can’t refuse the raise now. That deadline passed about a week ago so he will have to pursue a strategy similar to that of his colleague state Sen. Mike Walsworth such as giving charitable donation or to district projects if he intends not to have the raise stay in his own pocket. For another, he still maintains the mistaken beliefs that the increase was both deserved and consistent with the imperative that these jobs by nature are part time.

Regardless, anybody can say he is sorry but it’s repentance and a sincere attempt to undo the wrong that measures the true merit of the individual and his worthiness to serve as an elected official. Thus, Hoffman can and must prove his statement is more than words designed to pander by seeking to redress his sin.

While Hoffman’s public apology is the only one which I am aware, privately some regrets seem to be circulating around the capital and others have expressed misgivings at one of the two very obnoxious provisions part of the measure (the other being that it takes effect almost immediately), that, unprecedented in U.S. history, a state legislature now will have automatic raises go to its members. This awakening begs the question of how attentive these legislators really are if they didn’t take one, maybe two minutes during the days the legislation was debated among the public to think about how quickly their salaries would rise under the standards or whether it was even logical to tie their salaries to inflation rather than a measure of economic health such as changes in personal per capita income, but at least some of them seem to have briefly breached the cocoon that seems to envelop many legislators from the people once elected to grasp this shortcoming.

If Hoffman is serious, he will seek out at least three other House members and a Senator and with himself get them to sign a document acknowledging that their votes were mistakes and begging Gov. Bobby Jindal to veto the legislation – at least these numbers because they would drive below a passing majority the 56-43 vote in favor in the House, and 20-18 in the Senate, but is always better. Then, he should forward the document to Jindal with a note explaining these signatures in effect rescind a majority vote for the bill, and ask for Jindal’s assistance therefore in expressing the will of the legislative majority by use of his veto on the measure.

Given his spectacular misjudgment on the issue, a mere statement by Hoffman – or by any others – insufficiently restores confidence among the people. Only by taking action to head off the bill becoming law – as Jindal has gutlessly said he will let it become law if it is the will of the Legislature – can he and others show that, at least partially and finally, they seem to get it and deserve to be public servants.

1 comment:

Deryl Bryant "4unionparish" said...

Good morning, Professor.

Personally, I am in favor of a pay raise for the Legislature. I try to operate under the premise that "you get what you pay for".

Having said that, it was a monumental mistake the way this pay raise was accomplished, and few seem to realize that it was the Democrat leadership in the Legislature that pushed it through.

Senator Walsworth lobbied hard AGAINST this pay raise and tried to get his rookie colleagues to understand that any pay raise would not go over well with the voters, but one that takes place during the same session would be a political disaster.

Many obviously failed to heed Senator Walsworth's warnings and their future opponents will certainly attempt to put their proverbial heads on the chopping block.

On the issue of "part-time" employees, I would contend that this label for legislators is ridiculous. Give me one example of a part-time job where you work four months, likely 10-12 hour days and then take the rest of the year off. And in the case of a legislator, they come back to their districts and continue to handle local affairs. Can you imagine if they took the rest of the year off from their legislative work?

In the case of my friend Senator Walsworth, I know he works his butt off when he is at home for his district.

IMHO, I think it would be far better to classify them as "full-time", pay them full-time, but have their investments put in a blind trust, like is done with the President, and not allow any other income while they serve in the Legislature.

Wouldn't this serve to improve ethics and make financial disclosure more transparent and much easier to accomplish?

As for Senator Walsworth's decision to give his pay raise to LOCAL charities, I think it is OUTSTANDING and I intend to make efforts to get NELA’s entire delegation to do the same. (Well, at least the conservatives, ;) )

I am of the opinion that by refusing to take the money, it will go back to Baton Rouge and the LAST place it would be spent would be in NELA as history proves.

Please, keep up the good work and I look forward to your guidance.