Thursday, January 19, 2012

Citizen Legislators

On January 12, Representative Tim Johnson of Illinois issued a press release announcing the introduction of the Citizen Legislator Act in Congress. His goal is to return the Congress to the idea of citizen, rather than professional, legislators. The following are key elements of his bill:

Limits days in session to five per month or 60 business days per session.

Halves the salary of Representatives and Senators.

Permits members to have jobs outside of Congress so long as they do not derive their income as a result of the privilege of their office, such as speaking tours, lobbying, consulting, etc.

Allows members to choose benefit plans to reflect their lower salaries and allows them to opt out completely for a private option.

Cuts member office allowances, committee and leadership budgets in half.

Prohibits any grandfathering out of the new salary requirements and benefit packages for current members.

Cuts member salaries an additional 10 percent for every five business days Congress exceeds 60 business days in a session.

Given the fact that our current legislators would be voting to reduce their own pocketbooks, perks, and power if they voted for this bill, the chances are slim it will make it out of committee. And given the fact that life in 2012 is a lot more complicated than in the 1780's, Johnson's specific recommendations may be unrealistic. But it's definitely a step in the right direction. After all, anything would be an improvement over the Congress we have now. (Read more about the Act at Rep. Johnson's web site.)

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