Despite partisan differences

The legislative session ended on February 20th.

In New Mexico.

We were in Albuquerque when the session ended about an hour away by highway where speed limits seem to be optional despite the signs.

Albuquerque Journal Capitol reporter Dan Boyd told readers, “New Mexico lawmakers passed more bills during the just completed 30-day legislative session than they had in a short session since 2010, reaching deals on state spending, criminal penalties and driver’s licenses despite partisan differences.”

The Senate Democratic leader talked about the session having “a more civil tone” than the 2015 session.  The House Republican Floor Leader said, “bipartisanship is alive and well in Santa Fe.”  (For those who have forgotten their fourth-grade civics lessons where we had to memorize all of the state capitals, Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico, not Albuquerque.  In fact, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States).

Boyd said New Mexico lawmakers approved 101 bills plus a proposed constitutional amendment reforming the state’s bail system.

Comparing New Mexico’s legislature to Missouri’s legislature is comparing a peach to a raspberry.  But let’s make a little fruit salad today anyway.

New Mexico’s legislature meets for sixty days in the odd-numbered years and thirty days in the even-numbered, or election, years.  This year all 112 members of the legislature are up for election—all 72 Representatives and all 42 Senators.   Democrats control both chambers, 38-32 in the House and 27-15 in the Senate.

Bipartisanship is much easier when the political balance is more in balance.

There are no term limits so that means there are some experienced hands to teach the newcomers how to respect the system and how to respect each other to whatever degree respect can be given in these bile-filled political times.

Missouri has 197 members of the legislature (34 in the Senate, 163 in the House for those not fully civically literate), with two-thirds majorities on the Republican side in each chamber.  All of the House seats are up for election this year and one-half of the Senate seats.  Missouri has term limits, meaning experienced hands are lacking when it comes to teaching the newcomers how to respect the system and how to respect each other, etc.   The bile level appears to be higher in Missouri than in New Mexico.

Our legislature met for 72 days last year and will do about the same this year.  Monday, February 29th, was the thirtieth day of this legislative session in Missouri.

The internet site, Legiscan, says 2005 bills have been introduced in Missouri this year. Nine have passed in the first thirty days.  Its figures show 145 of the 2135 bills introduced last year were passed in a session that lasted twenty percent longer than the 2015 session in New Mexico.

Legiscan counted 138 measures on which work had been “competed” in New Mexico out of 1013 introduced for the thirty-day session this year and 232 out 1731 in the sixty-day session last year.  We haven’t waded too deep into the New Mexico process to determine why Boyd and Legiscan have different numbers but we suspect a slightly different definition of “measure” might be involved.

New Mexico has about 2.1-million people and Missouri has about 6.1 million.  Apparently, Missouri therefore needs forty percent more legislators and sixty percent more legislative days every two years to pass fewer bills while enjoying the benefits of much higher partisanship.

It surely can’t be because we have more people.

This is a possible reason for sessions that are short in New Mexico:  Members of New Mexico’s legislature are not paid salaries.  They get $165 a day per diem, adjustable according to the federal rate, a good reason to get business done expeditiously so legislators can get back home to real jobs in the real workplace with real people.

Missouri’s lawmakers, as we have noted previously, make about $36k a year plus per diem no matter how long they stick around the Missouri Capitol.

We do not offer an opinion of which system is best for the people of each state.  One seems clearly more advantageous to legislators and those who influence them.  We’ll let you decide which system better serves the people who live and work outside the Capitol.

We recall, however, that earlier this year one of Missouri’s legislative leaders opposed shortening sessions because it would leave the executive branch more in control of state government.  Some might find that a rather peculiar observation.

But we wonder if the shorter, lower-paid, legislative sessions in New Mexico are one reason the state is known as “The Land of Enchantment.”

Equal pay for equal work

We were thumbing through a Reader’s Digest while waiting for a doctor’s appointment the other day and came across an article that might let Missouri Republicans and Missouri Democrats reach an agreement on one of the big issues that separates them—paying women the same salary as men for doing comparable work.

Studies year after year show women earn twenty to thirty percent less than men for doing the same kind of thing.   The Onion published a story about a year ago showing how one company has resolved the issue without being forced to do so by activist judges or over-reaching federal bureaucrats.

The story reported that Northstar Solutions of Seattle had begun paying men and women 78% of what they should be earning.  The article describes Northstar as “a progressive company” and quotes CEO Jack Stargell saying, “We’ve always believed that employees who contribute the same level of hard work for the same duties should earn the same meager fraction of a reasonable wage, regardless of whether they are men or women.”  The company reviews the salaries annually to make sure they don’t get out of whack.  Stargell says, “Sex is simply not a determining factor in how we view our workers; they’re all disposable quantities that deserve an identical amount of disrespect and lack of recognition.”

Yes, yes, yes, we know The Onion is a satirical weekly paper, not a real newspaper.  But it might be onto something that could draw together the great minds and the differing philosophies of government that divide the Missouri legislature now.

The legislature could pass equal pay for equal work, which the few surviving liberals want, and it could mandate that companies pay men the same wages that women earn for doing their same jobs, which could satisfy demands from the business interests that pour money into conservative coffers.**

Let’s face it, if businesses had government approval to pay men 22% less than they’re paying them now, the profitability of Missouri companies would jump and Missouri could truly become the magnet attracting new businesses that conservatives want it to be.  And we all know, because the business interests have convinced conservatives that this is true, that the businesses would take those large windfalls and use them to create MORE 78% jobs.  And that would be incredible news to jobless Missourians whose unemployment benefits have been significantly reduced by those same legislators.

AND things could get even better if the next proposed income tax cut is approved.  Lower taxes on lower wages mean even less money for state services, programs, and infrastructure, advancing the drive to “right size” government.  Observers who have been critical of Missouri’s politics would be hard-pressed to deny after all of this that Missouri is not a progressive state.

A lot of people make the mistake of dismissing The Onion as just a satirical publication.  Maybe Missouri legislators should look to it as kind of a guidebook to state prosperity and political harmony.

There’s one more thing to note about this issue.  Missouri already has a law that mandates equal pay for men and women performing equal work.  But it applies to only a select few.

21.140. Each senator and representative shall receive from the treasury an annual salary of eighteen thousand seventy-eight dollars plus any salary adjustment provided pursuant to section 105.005.

The most recent figure we’ve seen puts the basic equal adjusted salary for each man and woman in the General Assembly at $35,915 a year plus a per diem, mileage, and full state health benefits.  Men and women in this select group also can equally qualify for a pension after working six years.

The 78% plan of Northstar Solutions is not necessary in their case.

**The law probably should exclude CEOs from its provisions so that they can receive multi-million dollar bonuses for improving the company’s bottom line.  Female CEOs also could get bonuses but only 78% as much as the male CEOs.