In a November 24th article by Jennifer Epstein in Polititico, Gov. Bobby Jindal made a rather impassioned statement on the merits of part time legislatures. In this article, he proposed not only making legislatures part time, but argued for term limits and restrictions on lobbying for current and former legislators.
Here is the comment I made on the Politico article:
Gov. Jindal has the right of it!!
Many state legislatures are part time, sitting only for a few months a year then adjourning.
Here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, our session begins in January and ends by March and the rest of the time, the representatives have real jobs in the real world with a few official meetings thrown in from time to time and the occasional special session should something unexpected occur. They have to live in their districts and with the consequences of their actions, facing the home folks most of the time. There is no place to hide, no way to dodge the consequences… There is no “bubble”.
It is an interesting fact that states with part time legislatures seem to have fewer budget problems than those with full time legislatures. Cases in point: Virginia, West Virginia, Connecticut, Montana and North Dakota all have budget surpluses and all are blessed with part time legislatures. The states and territories with full time legislatures like D.C., Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois, and California all have massive deficits or serious budgetary problems.
Although hardly proof positive, it is an interesting trend that states with smaller “citizen legislators” seem to be more fiscally conservative and more economically run than those places where there is a full time “political class” at work all the time.
Perhaps there is a lesson for the denizens of Washington D.C in this.
The venerable and well respected journalist David Brinkley once lamented that western civilization, or at the very least, American democracy began its decline when air conditioning was installed in government buildings such as the Capitol Building and the White House, as well as other governmental edifices in the 1930’s thus allowing the legislature, the executive branch and government bureaucracy at large to remain in the nations capitol through the hot, humid and patently unpleasant summers typical of the upper Chesapeake. With this bit of alleged progress, the “powers that be” could continue to work through the languid summer days and nights, turning out ever more rules, regulations and laws and spending ever increasing amounts of taxpayer money. Conversely, they spent fewer and fewer days back home among those they supposedly represented, safe within “the bubble” from the slings and arrows of the home folks, appearing only to fund raise and run for re-election.
Yes, indeed, the Governor of Louisiana has it right. It is time for legislators to return home and live like the rest of us… Perhaps common sense will return when they do.