Today I learned, via the journalist John Fleck, that the New Mexican state legislature is not paid. As in, at all. Wondering what the general case was, Jake Grovum pointed me to this handy tool he constructed. It turns out that while New Mexico is at the absolute bottom, most states are barely better. West Virginia, at about the median, pays just $20,000.
The idea behind extremely low-paid state legislators, presumably, is to make the job for virtuous, dedicated ordinary citizens who are well-connected to their districts. But legislating is not easy, and nobody has universal expertise in every area. Instead, low-paid and understaffed lawmakers turn to lobbyists for the professional expertise needed to keep state governments operating. And as John Oliver noted last year, the results are disastrous.
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