Interested in the actual practice of legislators’ reimbursements and per diem? I recommend this piece on state legislators’ per diem from Walter C. Jones of Morris News Service through our friends over at Online Athens. It covers the multiple philosophies and reimbursement practices of several legislators around the state.
While it’s a common practice for taxpayers to rail against the per diem and expenses reimbursement for state lawmakers, the truth is less troublesome. The common state representative shares a secretary with four other legislators. There are exceptions for committee chairmen and floor leaders, but for most it affects productivity and constituent services. For that reason some per diem is spent for support rather than cover the personal costs of the legislator and up to $7,000 per year can be reimbursed to rank-and-file lawmakers.
Lawmakers like Rep. Craig Gordon, D-Savannah, who spend their entire allotment on aides, say volunteers aren’t reliable and the shared secretary isn’t always available.
“It’s just hard to keep track of all the constituent calls and organize things on a daily basis,” Gordon said, noting that he usually can only hire a college student or retiree for the available sum.
Very rarely do I give merit to the argument “Well everyone else is doing it!” HB 24 is a prime example. Many states have already adopted the Federal Rules of Evidence, so this is not a case of Georgia needing to jump on a bandwagon – this is a case of Georgia needing to furiously run downhill to catch-up with the bandwagon.
The bill, originally offered by Rep. Willard, cleared the House without much opposition. Many believed yesterday that Senator Hamrick would engross the bill. But that did not happen. Senator Cowsert tabled the bill and many believe he is loading it up with amendments to ensure it does not pass.
But this is not the first roadblock evidence reform has hit. The current Georgia rules of evidence has been in place for over a hundred years and is supported by, sometimes conflicting, caselaw. The history of this bill dates back to 1989 and a certain State Senator, and wonderful Governor, named Nathan Deal. Reform was defeated then and several more times over the years. The current version is the result of a “peace agreement” of sorts among several interested parties, particularly District Attorneys and Public Defenders. The legislation DOES have support in the legal community. Among those supporting HB 24 is the State Bar and the Council of Superior Court Judges.
But evidence reform is in fact being held up. Here in the midnight hour. Senator Cowsert waited to the last minute, when there was very little chance to patch things up to pull this move. Did he offer much reasoning? Not really. Here’s a quote from The Daily Report:
“I hear from an awful lot of attorneys who tell me they are comfortable with the rules of evidence the way they are.”
If you are going to hold up a major and needed reform like this, I humbly expect you to have better reasoning Senator Cowsert.
If you want to learn more about the changes, here is a wonderful report compiled by a Georgia State Law Professor.
The Oconee County school board is up in arms this week because their State Representative, Bob Smith (R-Watkinsville), isn’t going to carry legislation they’ve proposed which would grant them pay raises from 333% for ordinary board members to 556% for the chairman.
Perhaps these members, who are in mid-term (if you can call it that; they were just elected back in November), haven’t noticed that the entire country — their state included — is in the middle of a pretty noteworthy economic downturn. Regardless, they clearly don’t see the impropriety in demanding a trebling or quintupling of their salaries at a time when the state is billions of dollars in the hole and the unemployment rate is continuously climbing.
Oconee Board of Education chairman David Weeks seems to think he was mislead and then thrown under the bus by Rep. Smith, with whom Weeks claims to have been “talking…about the proposal since January.” However, “talking” about a proposal, and actually promising to carry legislation that flies in the face of all good sense, are entirely different things, as Mr. Weeks has now learned. Read more