Talk about preventing another Tennessee Waltz has already started in the legislature. One idea that many have talked about (and blogger Matthew White made a mention of it on his blog South end Grounds) is the idea of a full time legislature. The argument by those who've mentioned it in the halls of the legislature is that full time legislators would be paid more, and by virtue of a larger salary, corruption would be ended.
The big complaint is that we “only make $16,500 a year.” This is true, but also misleading. Our base salary is $16,500 (for 45 days of actual work) per year. But as legislators we also receive $12,000 per year for “office expense” (I know of no legislator that has a office outside of the house), not to mention health care coverage, which in this day and age is worth an enormous amount. We also receive 33 cents per mile for travel expense (it adds up).also a 401k plan. On top of that, we receive $141.00 per day as living expenses every day that we are here-even if it's only for fifteen minutes.
I have heard there are some legislators who abuse this per diem privilege. They come to their office when not in session, make a few calls and ask their secretaries to put them down on the books for full pay. Perhaps other than the leadership, there's really not a lot of reasons for a legislator or senator to be down here often.
Session could in fact be shorter if we worked full time during session. Instead, most days are half days in order to stretch out the number of days to boost per diem.
I am not going to address free meals or trips, maybe in another post. But my point is this: put your mind at ease. No one here is going to starve by being honest.
The next time you hear your state representative or senator whine how tough the job is or how he or she is underpaid, tell him/her to quit. There are plenty of good people in Tennessee who will fill their shoes. Saying that usually changes their tune quite quickly.