Committee shoots down pay raise for lawmakers

ArtheniaJoyner

Florida Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner‘s bill to increase salaries of all state legislators from (SB 712) was shot down in committee on Tuesday.

Under her bill, the salaries of the members of representatives and senators would rise from $29,600 to $50,000 annually. The House Speaker and Senate President’s salaries would rise to $57,000.

Joyner, who represents Tampa in the Senate, is term-limited out of her position at the end of this year. She said that the thrust of her proposal was to diversify the membership of the House and Senate. The Legislature is considered a part-time job. However, a number of lawmakers have lucrative positions in the private sector that allow them to take the two months off required for the Regular Session. Then there are the various pre-Session committee meetings and occasional Special Sessions that make it more of a full-time position.

“I understand where Senator Joyner is coming from, but I disagree with the premise that more money will produce a more diverse Legislature,” said Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, who contended the Senate is plenty diverse.

Although Latvala was referring to racial diversity, which included the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, Joyner said she was referring to occupational diversity. She said the Legislature needs other workers such as teachers, bus drivers and bartenders who aren’t represented among Senate and House members.

“That’s a perspective that’s missing from this body,” Joyner said. “People wonder why we have so many folks with so much money who are up here who raise a lot of money to get here, and the conventional wisdom out there on the streets is that we’re bankrolled by special interests and lobbyists and handpicked by our parties.”

The hearing was disrupted when a man who identified himself as Antonio Davis began discussing the bill, but then went off on a tangent about nonprofits. Chairman Jeremy Ring had the sergeant of arms take Davis away, which led to Davis shouting and telling the official to take his hands off him.  “Nonprofits have taken everything I’ve got. Everything I’ve got!” he yelled as he was escorted out.

Cutler Bay Democrat Dwight Bullard then said Davis epitomized the perception “that the average lay person doesn’t have a voice in government. That’s what Senator Joyner’s bill is speaking to.”

“I’m like everybody else,” cracked Umatilla Republican Alan Hays. “Offer me more money, and I’d like to have it.”

However, this is an election year, and most lawmakers seeking re-election know that voting for a raise for themselves would be writing the copy for an opponent’s election ad. Other than Bullard, no other senator supported the bill.

Joyner also has a bill still floating in the Senate that would give all state employees a 3 percent raise.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.



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