Assemblywoman Victoria Dooling, R-Henderson, on Tuesday told the legislative Sunset Committee the existing committee that reviews the pay of Nevada elected officials lacks the power to take politics out of that process.
Dooling urged the panel to eliminate that committee, urging support instead for a constitutional amendment that would have power over elected pay rates for constitutional officers to legislators and the judiciary.
That amendment is contained in Assembly Joint Resolution 10 passed by the 2015 Legislature. To become part of the constitution, it would have to be approved again by the 2017 Legislature then voted in by the people.
Dooling said the existing committee can only make recommendations to lawmakers, which she said injects politics back into the process.
“It’s very difficult for elected officials to have a serious and fact-based discussion about their own compensation,” she said adding that special interests and the public look at any decision to raise pay as self-serving.
The independent commission proposed in AJR10, Dooling said, “is intended to take the monkey off the back of the Legislature.”
She was supported by Assemblyman David Gardner, R-Las Vegas, who said the amendment would “make sure politics stays out of this subject.” He said 60 percent of states have some form of commission to set elected pay rates.
“It’s time to let an independent commission decide how compensation should be set,” he said.
The proposed amendment would also repeal existing language that limits legislative pay to the first 60 days of the 120 day regular session and the first 20 days of any special session. Legislative leaders have long questioned why lawmakers should be paid for just half of each regular session.
To be fair, however, lawmakers do receive other compensation including a daily per diem designed to help cover the cost of living, particularly for those southern and rural lawmakers who can’t live at home during session.
Dooling said the proposed commission. Appointed by the governor, legislative leaders and the Supreme Court chief justice, would have the power the existing committee lacks — to set pay rates without going through the governor or legislature for approval. She said there are several other states that do have such a commission.
Members of the Sunset Committee, however, got a teasing warning from chairman Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, “California has a compensation commission and it was interesting to me that, two years ago, they voted to reduce compensation for legislators. They thought they were overpaid so be careful what you wish for.”