Should The State Legislature Be Full-Time? Spoiler Alert: No

full time legislature“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”
Mark Twain
This interesting exchange in an Arkansas News article between House Speaker  Jeremy Gillam and a member of the Independent Citizen’s Committee yesterday caught my attention:

Vice Chairman Chuck Banks told House Speaker-designate Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, that most people he has heard from do not want legislative salaries adjusted so as to create a full-time Legislature.“Do you hear that same thing from your constituents?” Banks asked.“No sir, I don’t know that I hear the exact same thing,” Gillam said. “What we hear is a concern (about) the duration of the ability to pass laws and having the sessions, but the service level I hear quite a bit is that they want us here quite a bit.”

I’ve no idea who Gillam has been hearing from on this issue, but it apparently isn’t from people who care about limiting government.
There is a very strong connection between how long and how often a state’s legislature meets and how much that state taxes and spends. Usually, state legislatures that meet more tend to spend more.
According to Ballotpedia, the states with full-time legislatures are California, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
So if you want Arkansas government to become more like California government, a full-time legislature will get you closer to realizing that dream. On the other hand, Texas only meets every two years — just like Arkansas did until 2008 — and our southwestern neighbor has managed to do just fine without the accompaniment of a full-time legislature.
In short, a full-time legislature would be a nice stimulus package for lobbyists and legislators whose chief concern in public service seems to be improving politicians’ credit scores, but such a change would likely be a detriment to those interested in growing Arkansas’s economy and limiting the size and scope of government in what was once the Land of Opportunity.

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