Part- vs. full-time Legislatures: Here’s how it works in other states

Posted at 6:41 PM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 18:41:08-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's Legislature employs lawmakers full-time year-round, but maybe not for much longer.

On Tuesday, Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley announced his support of a ballot initiative to amend the state Constitution to make Michigan's Legislature part-time. The Clean MI Government initiative would be on the statewide ballot if enough signatures are collected.

Legislators could meet no more than 90 consecutive days a year under the plan, unless the governor calls a special session. They now meet off and on throughout the year. Annual pay would be slashed in half from about $72,000.

Currently, Michigan is in the minority.

California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania are the only four states with truly full-time Legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, meaning they require the most time of their elected lawmakers, have large personal staffs, and pay, on average, enough money to make a living without outside income.

In seven other states—Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin—members of the Legislature spend the equivalent of 80 percent of a full-time job working, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In six states—Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and Texas—Legislatures convene in regular session only every other year.

Remaining states operate with some type of part-time setup offering low pay and small staffs, or a "hybrid" setup with legislators who typically say they spend more than two-thirds of a full-time job being lawmakers.

New Hampshire lawmakers are among the lowest paid at $100 a year while California legislators earn the most per year at more than $100,000, according to compensation information made available by NCSL. New Mexico doesn't pay lawmakers at all.

But how many days are Michigan lawmakers currently spending in session?

The numbers fluctuate, but not much beyond or below 90 days each year, according to data collected by MLive.

In 2016, the House spent 80 days in session, while the Senate spent 83 days. The year prior, lawmakers in the House spent 105 days in session while Senators spent 113 days. The number of session days dropped to 88 and 87, respectively, in 2014.

Lawmakers tend to spend less days in session during even-numbered years due to elections and the need to spend more time in district to campaign, MLive notes.

Calley is still expected to announce a run for governor before the week is up. Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette is also still expected to announce his candidacy soon. Schuette endorsed the idea of a part-time Legislature in a Detroit News op-ed published last week.

Critics of the proposal argue part-time Legislatures encourage more coporate control and lobbyist influence.

"It should be a legislature that actually represents what people are asking for, better education, better roads," Michigan Democratic Party chairman Brandon Dillon told FOX 17 on Tuesday. "Whether you get a full time or part time Legislature, the key is actually having a Legislature in tune with working class families and this administration has not been.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.