There’s a bit of a political squabble going on in Massachusetts right now. Under the current law, members of the Governor’s Council are legally forbidden from practicing law in front of state agencies. The notion is that it’s kind of hard to keep the two hats separate — it could be tough for judges to distinguish between Attorney Joe who wants to win his case and Councilor Joe, who approves judges, votes on court budgets, and the like.
The tiny minority of Republicans in the legislature are pushing to expand the ban to include legislators, who pass laws and hold the purse strings of the Courts. On the other side, some Democrats (who hold 85% of each house, as well as the governor’s office and the Governor’s Council) are pushing to lift the ban entirely.
In Massachusetts, “elected official” is a pretty good profession. Starting pay for a legislator is around $55,000 a year, and I believe Councilors make around $100,000 (I can’t find the precise amount). the theory is that if you want the best people, you have to pay enough for them to be worth their time and compete with the private sector.
One of the problems with this is that lawmakers who think of themselves as “professional lawmakers” tend to think that they need to constantly justify their pay by making laws. So you end up with a tremendous amount of silly and busybody laws.
Another is that if you get lawmakers who are in it for the money — and look for ways to make more. This is just one of them.
Here in New Hampshire, we have a different attitude. We don’t want “professional” lawmakers. We want legislators who have no incentive to stay in Concord any longer than necessary. So we have a huge legislature (400 in the House, 24 in the Senate) and pay them virtually nothing — $100.00 per year, plus mileage and expenses. If some don’t show up on occasion, no big deal — we got plenty more to make a quorum. And most of them have real jobs that they have to get back to, or their families don’t get fed.
And it’s worked out pretty well for us.
Politics is funny. There’s an old saying that “you get what you pay for.” Here in New Hampshire, we don’t pay very much for our government, and we don’t get very much of a government for that. But there seems to be a inverse relationship between AMOUNT of government and QUALITY of government.
Down in Massachusetts, they get all the government they can afford — and then some. And they’re welcome to it.