Measures would increase senator salaries, establish compensation commission

Two proposed constitutional changes that would be placed on the November 2012 general election ballot were heard by the Legislature’s Executive Board Feb. 7.

LR373CA, introduced by Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, would increase state legislators’ annual salary from $12,000 to $32,000.

Term limits are bringing in many new senators who do not anticipate how demanding it can be to serve, Lautenbaugh said. The $12,000 salary requires that many of them maintain additional employment while in office but there is little time to do so, he said.

“Our pay is too low and I think we are limiting the number and type of people that can serve as a result,” Lautenbaugh said. “There is never a good time to address this issue, but it is long overdue.”

Ron Sedlacek of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce testified in support of the proposal. State senators last received a pay raise 23 years ago, Sedlacek said, so the chamber would support the amendment.

LR377CA, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery, would require the Legislature to establish a compensation commission that would determine the salary, travel expenses and benefits of state constitutional officers, including the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor of public accounts, state treasurer, attorney general and state senators.

The current $12,000 salary requires that many senators be self-employed or have the financial stability to have a considerable amount of time off to serve, Avery said.

“Do we want a legislature where only those who do not need money can serve?” he asked.

Adam Morfeld, executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, testified in support of the proposal, saying the lack of compensation narrows the field of legislative candidates.

No opposing testimony was given on either resolution and the board took no immediate action on the measures.

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