Mississippi’s State Legislature finally wrapped up the year’s business. Whoop-te-do! It only took a regular session plus a specially called session. And what did they accomplish? Next to nothing. Unemployment is still high. Our education system is still lagging. We’re at the bottom of every economic list, but, by golly, we can go to the mall with a gun on our hip.
New Hampshire calls its legislators “citizen legislators.” I think it’s because they are paid only $200 per session, and there is no per diem. No per diem usually means no special sessions. New Hampshire has the largest state legislative body in the country, with each elected official representing about 3000 citizens. And there is no pension for New Hampshire legislators. The only expense allowed is for mileage.
A bit much, you say? Interestingly enough, they don’t have trouble finding people willing to serve. Apparently, they take public service to heart.
In Mississippi, our legislators earn a base salary of $10,000. Each day they are in session, they receive a per diem of $109. The average salary for this part-time position is around $28,000. Salary plus per diem is used to calculate their pension. The median income for the entire household in Mississippi is only $38,718.
I’ve been reading our state constitution. The constitution allows for sessions up to 90 days for three out of every four years. Every fourth year, the session may be up to 125 days. Note the constitution doesn’t say the session shall be 125 days. It says it can’t be more than 125 days. Apparently, the legislators take the limit as the absolute starting point. Ah, that per diem thing.
Buried in the constitution is an interesting article. Article 4, Section 78 of the Mississippi State Constitution states, “It shall be the duty of the legislature to regulate by law the cases in which deductions shall be made from salaries of public officers for neglect of official duty, and the amount of said deduction.”
I think $200 per session plus mileage is more than adequate for what we get from our current crop of legislators. Petition, anyone?
Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Ridgeland — (601) 991-3158. She is also an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is email@example.com, and her website is www.newper.com.