Making the Case to Curb Outside Pay for Lawmakers in Albany

The New York State Capitol complex in Albany.

The New York State Capitol complex in Albany. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Farm bankruptcies increase in Upper Midwest … Bend, Ore.’s high wildfire risk … and Cincinnati City Council subpoenas in texting lawsuit.

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Leading our state and local government news roundup is lawmaker compensation, but scroll down for more from places like Minneapolis, Minnesota; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Butte County, California (where the Camp Fire death toll has increased). ALSO IN ROUTE FIFTY … Lordstown, Ohio mayor discusses planned GM plant shutdownmillennial homeownership ratesusing bikeshare data to improve equity in Washington, interview with New York state’s executive deputy chief information officer … and another 2018 Navigator Award winner profile.

Let’s get to it …

STATE LEGISLATURES | New York City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents Manhattan’s Upper East Side, thinks the New York State Legislature should follow the City Council’s lead on getting rid of outside pay for lawmakers, with his office on Monday flagging The New York Times Editorial Board’s support. Kallos said in a statement:

In 2016, I authored and successfully worked to pass legislation making the City Council a full-time job. We banned stipends referred to as “lulus” and got rid of outside income that exposed Council Members to corruption, or at the very least, its appearance.

Now the New York Times Editorial Board has praised what the Council did and recommended that the New York State Legislature follow suit and “act as responsibly” as the Council did in 2016 when we adopted these measures.

In the coming weeks as Albany and the pay committee discuss the possibility of raising wages for state lawmakers for the first time in 20 years, let us remember that compensation goes hand in hand with trust. The public would be better served if any pay raises that may come were tied to banning outside income and lulus for state lawmakers.

[N.Y.C. Councilmemeber Ben Kallos; The New York Times]

The North Carolina General Assembly’s lame-duck session starts Tuesday and Republicans, who will soon lose their supermarjority status needed to override vetoes from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, have a “wishlist of at least six items,” including controversial Voter ID legislation that could keep lawmakers in Raleigh “well into December.” [@NCCapitol / WRAL] … The Michigan Legislature is also in a lame duck session and two items “causing the most heartburn” in Lansing are “a plan to unravel laws passed earlier this year to raise the minimum wage from $9.25 to $12 per hour and require employers to provide paid sick time for workers.” [Detroit Free Press]

LOCAL GOVERNMENT | In Cincinnati, Ohio, county sheriff’s deputies showed up at City Hall on Monday afternoon and delivered subpoenas to five City Council members who are being sued and accused of “illegally conducting city business via text message.” [Enquirer /] … Former Paterson, New Jersey Mayor Joey Torres will be released on Dec. 12 “after serving less than 13 months in prison for using three city employees on taxpayer overtime to renovate his daughter’s beer warehouse.” [Paterson Press /] … In Shelby County, Tennessee, Mayor Lee Harris announced Monday that some temporary county employees, including custodians, law clerks and secretarial staff, will soon be making $15 an hour. [WREG] … During a special meeting on Monday, Columbia, Missouri City Council members said that the search for the next city manager “should be a swift and transparent process.” [Missourian]

(via Minneapolis Fed)

AGRICULTURE | Farm bankruptcies are on the rise in the five states under the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank’s Ninth District, which covers Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. According to a Minneapolis Fed report released before Thanksgiving, the “nagging economic strain of low commodity prices on farmers and ranchers—compounded for some by recent tariffs—is starting to show up not just in bottom-line profitability, but in simple viability.” Over the 12 months ending in June of this year, there were 84 Chapter 12 bankruptcies for farm operations in Ninth District states, “more than twice the level seen in June 2014.”  [Minneapolis Fed via Star Tribune]

Bend, Oregon (Shutterstock)

WILDFIRES | According to a new report from the U.S. Forest Service, wildfire risk in the Pacific Northwest is “heavily concentrated in a relatively small handful of cities and towns.” That includes Bend, Oregon, where 41,000 homes within the city’s footprint “carry some risk of wildfire exposure.” [Bend Bulletin] … In Butte County, California, the death toll from the Camp Fire has increased to 88 confirmed fatalities with more than 200 listed as missing as of Monday evening. [KCRA]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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