Does holding down a private-sector job make for a better legislator?

Minnesota’s campaign finance board wants tighter standards for legislators to follow in disclosing outside income. Legislators receive only $31,000 a year, so most need to hold other jobs, but outside work can pose conflicts of interest. Today’s Question: Does holding down a private-sector job make for a better legislator?

  • Steve the Cynic

    It depends on the job. But if we’re worried about private sector jobs creating conflicts of interest, or the appearance of such, we should consider halving the size of the legislature, making it full time, and doubling their pay.

  • Rich in Duluth

    No. To lower the possibility of conflicts of interest, I’d prefer to see publicly financed campaigns.

  • GregX

    No. I think Steve has good idea. but how about this … 100 legislators. 87 counties = 87 legislators. the remaining 13 are divided up 5=metro at large. 2 each for NW, NE, SW, SE. Pay them 87,000/year but no per diem incidentals. Provide a dormitory for example lease rooms at the Kelly Inn near capitol.
    During non-session, structure their time into required public meeting hours in their county or region and participation on regional boards and citizens meetings.

    • Steve the Cynic

      Nice idea, but not workable, due to vast population size disparities between counties. (When it’s more relevant to the topic, I may explain why it would work to eliminate legislative districts altogether. You’d vote for one, and the top 100 vote getters statewide would be elected.)

  • John

    We should eliminate the legislators, we don’t need more laws.

  • david

    No mater what, there are always going to be conflicts of interest. Just look at president shrub and vice president halliburton. Does anyone really believe it was a coincidence that we invaded an oil producing country under false pretenses, the price of gas shot through the roof, and the oil companies all made obscene profits while being subsidized by our taxes? We should probably do something along the lines of how they choose the Dalai Lama. We could find the reincarnations of the founding fathers and raise them in monistaries until they are old enough to take office. That should go a long way to solving some of our present conflicts. If not i guess we’re stuck with the system that we got and should not only improve transparency, but harshly punish anyone guilty of malfeasance.

    • jockamo

      If we were to “harshly punish anyone guilty of malfeasance”. the current president would be languishing under a life sentence, and BillyBoy would have met his maker long ago.

      It is always amusing to see the haters of W. Bush rant on and on and on about his wrongdoings, then, when you ask what W. did that was so bad they will go on about the wars, homeland security, FISA, tax cuts for the wealthy, etc. But, when you inform them that Obama has carried on ALL of those things that Bush did, re-upped every one, signed each into law again, this time with HIS name at the bottom, so that they are Obama’s now, every one. And yet, not a harsh word for Obama doing exactly what Bush did. No one protesting down at the White House, no DemSlaves even with the guts to vote against their W. Bush clone.

      Talk about intellectual dishonesty. But, then, we are talking about Dems. Their creed is “It’s a crime when a Republican does it, but a blessing for the Country when a Democrat does the same damn thing.”

      About 12 years old…….

    • http://mprnews.org/ Eric Ringham, MPR News

      It’s amazing that a question aiming at the benefits of a citizen Legislature can make the leap to the Dalai Lama. Could we focus a little closer to home, please?

      • david

        My point was that the Dalai Lama is probably the only person with any sort of political power that is possibly immuned to any potential conflicts of interest. Disclosure by it’s self is not the answer. There will always be loop holes, or if enough people have the potential to gain they will turn a blind eye. But even making politicking a full time and well paying job isn’t going to stop those that want more.

  • Jim G

    Yes, Legislators can hold any job. In fact, the broader their employment history the more personal knowledge they can bring to the debate. We need a broad spectrum of careers in our legislature to guarantee representation of the many different sectors in our economy. Transparency is the key. I just want to know what life experiences a legislator has had and especially who they are working for now. If they’ve worked as a pirate at some time in the past, it would be helpful if that were listed on the disclosure documents too.

  • sb

    No it doesn’t, I’d rather see a legislature where you don’t have to be personally wealthy or employed in a very flexible occupation. We want the best and the brightest to enter public service. We need to be willing to pay accordingly if you’re going to attract the people with the skills, brains and commitment needed to solve our toughest problems.

  • Laura

    “Citizen legislators” not professionals, was the model. $31k is a nice salary for the work done (or undone); and if they have outside income, all the better for them to understand the consequences of their legislation.

  • David P.

    Not that I am in favor of larger government, but I would like to see a “Citizen’s Review/Oversight Board” made up of citizens from all walks of life, drawn from the population in the same manner as a jury, that reviews and votes on any legislation. This would be a 3rd legislative branch, one not accountable or beholden to special interests, their party or financial contributors, and not voting according to their prospects in the next election.

  • Jeff

    Can someone explain what the difference is between the MN Senate and the MN House since they all are up for re-election every 2 years anyway? I’m not sure what the point is of having both a state Senate and House when a single legislative branch would accomplish the same purpose.

    • Jim G

      The MN Senator term is 4 years. The MN House of Representatives term is for 2 years, but with redistricting this past election everyone was up for re-election.

      • Jeff

        So in reality the MN Senators only serve 4 year terms 2 out of 3 elections and on the 3rd they will always have redistricting (which occurs every 10 years)?

        • Jim G

          Sounds like you’ve got it. Redistricting is the wild card.

  • Mark

    No, I would prefer what steve suggested and I would add there should be legislation on term limits.I think that many legislators get too comfortable in their positions in government. Historically, serving was meant to be a short term proposal to help the people of our state and then move on, not a lifetime career of dictating legislation to the people of our state with their powerful special interests.

    • Steve the Cynic

      Term limits sound like a nice idea on the surface, but experience shows some major downsides in states that have them. Two of the biggest are (1) after a while the people with the most knowledge of how the system works are not the elected officials but the lobbyists, so they wind up with too much power; and (2) when their eligibility for reelection expires, they start paying more attention to what might get them elected to something else than to doing a good job where they are.

  • Kim

    Legislators are responsible for deciding on policy and making laws. Their other roles ( employee, caregiver, student) definitely adds to their knowledge of Minnesotans and these life experiences do make them better- rounded decisionmakers. Does a legislator’s outside work pose a conflict of interest ? I think the answer depends largely on the legislator’s employer and her/his job responsibilities. And let’s not forget the legislator’s character.
    Why is this question limited to the private sector ? Conflicts of interest can occur among legislators employed in the public and non-profit sectors, too.
    Legislators’ refusal to disclose their outside work as contractors is outrageous. Why should contractors be permitted to duck the questions ? Legislators employed as private contractors have a challenge here, but they must be held to a high standard, too. Thanks to the Campaign Finance Board for pursuing this.

  • Mark

    Shouldn’t this transparency apply to our President? We don’t see the media mentioning the numbers and names of campaign bundlers for Obama, and the number that got free loans and grants to invest in near bankrupt green energy co’s. Solyndra come to mind? Billions lost by this lack of transparency and accountability_ billions of YOUR taxes wasted for this.How about Nancy Pelosi’s huge jump in wealth over the past 4 years, all made while a full time Representative..coincidence?

  • Pearly

    No thanks, you can have the metropolitan. I like where I live and think I will stay here thank you.