Wednesday, July 13, 2005

With Schools Still Hanging In The Balance Legislators Vote Judges, And Themselves, A Pay Raise

Well now that the main agenda special session is still in limbo your elected representatives, with the Gov. Perry's approval, have moved on to the important task of taking care of themselves, Judicial pay raises approved, Measure boosts lawmakers' pension benefits:
With school finance reform and property tax cuts, the two goals of the special legislative session, still unresolved, Texas lawmakers on Tuesday quickly approved a plan to give state judges a hefty pay increase -- and significantly boost their own retirement benefits at the same time.
In the Senate only Shapleigh and Janek voted against the bill, that means Sen. Ogden voted for it, and the House voted this through with a non-record vote, so no one has to be held accountable for this. [Update]:There actually was a record vote, (.pdf) - scroll until you see HB 11 - on suspeneding the rules to allow them to do a second and third reading on the same day. Then a non-record vote on final passage. Be sure and read the reasons for vote/justifications from some of the members.
One day after Gov. Rick Perry expanded the session's agenda to include judicial pay, senators voted 26-2 to approve Senate Bill 11. Hours later, the House approved its version of the legislation on a voice vote, leaving no written record of how each member voted.
If you're wondering how the two Williamson County representatives voted it's hard to be sure. I can't find any statements from Rep. Gattis on this issue but here is what Rep. Krusee had to say:
"Any time the Legislature passes something that affects us, it has the potential to raise questions, but we realize that judges need a pay raise," said Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, who said he voted for the measure. "People think we're paid like Congress, when we're not. I'd love for our retirement not to be tied to judges' pay, because this question comes up every time."
First, I believe that's a yes vote. Second, if you're so underpaid then don't run for another term! Third, name some "people" that think you're paid like Congress. Sen. Ogden had this to say about his vote, and by the way teachers are not very happy about this:
After the Senate vote Tuesday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-College Station, said legislative compensation is an issue that should be studied. And he suggested that lawmakers' pensions might be better linked to those of teachers.

"I've always said the compensation package for legislators is out of whack," Ogden said.

But the mood of teachers, who are facing a looming crisis in their own pension system and who protested loudly in May when lawmakers first tried to increase their own pensions without fixing teachers', seemed not too much different Tuesday.
It's not what you say but what you do Representative and Senator. I'm sure both Sen. Ogden and Rep. Krusee have filed bills about their ideas to fix this problem, right? This doesn't look good. I know that's overstating the obvious but this is just another failure of leadership in this state. Maybe judges need to be paid more but no one in this state needs a pay raise more than our teachers. For our legislature to take care of themselves before they take care of the most important issue facing this state right now just reinforces what our current leadership is all about.

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