by Bryan T. Schulz
February 21, 2005
I lived in Nevada for a number
of years while going to school in the eighties. Nevada is a fairly
large state in terms of land mass and has more than twice Alaska's
population. The Nevada legislature met only every other year.
As a university student I had an opportunity to serve as an unpaid
intern for one of the State Representatives while that body was
"in session" during my last semester of school. During
that experience I learned that a lot can get done in a short
amount of time by people who are neither paid a full time salary
nor endowed with a slate of full time subordinates. Put simply,
the State of Nevada was able to conduct its business by allowing
its elected officials to meet for only several months every other
year and by tapping into its student resource at no cost. The
salaries paid to the elected officials seemed miniscule to me
even at my then student poverty level. I do not know to what
quantum of fringe benefits the elected officials of Nevada were!
Alaska is the largest state by land mass measurements but it is by far the smallest when based upon the number that should really count, population. With this, it makes little sense to me to devote the amount of attention and money that we do on our politics. We hire an extraordinary number of full time politicians. We also fund the full time staff of each of these politicians. We also let all of these folks get together each and every year for months and months. While we again look at a capitol relocation, we should also consider the idea of limiting the scope of work that we hire. We should consider limiting the frequency with which the legislature gets together. We should reduce the high cost of staff and we should consider tapping our student (free) resources available in our university system.
These limitations should work
not only to reduce the overall cost of Alaska's politics but,
at the same time, make life more bearable for Alaskans. By this
I am referring to the barrage of new legislation that comes from
our elected officials each year. Some of these laws make sense.
Many do not. Because our leaders are asked to meet every year,
and because each has a large highly paid staff, it seems apparent
that each would feel a compelling need to forge some significant
lawmaking contribution. After all, "what are we paying you
for if your are not going to do anything." By shortening
the time that the legislature meets, reducing the salaries of
the elected officials, reducing the salaries of their staff (to
zero), and limiting the frequency of sessions, our leaders may
be forced to focus upon only the most pressing of the State's
business and stop wasting our money by passing laws that cost
too much and often only make life more cumbersome and less enjoyable.
Finally, limitations such as these may also make it less attractive
to go through the cost and effort of a capital move.
Bryan T. Schulz
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