HJR 60

Joint Rules Committee Study of General Assembly Salaries and Allowances

December 17, 1998, Richmond

The Joint Rules Committee met to consider the recommendations of the Citizens' Advisory Committee on Legislative Compensation and to discuss the procedural resolution for the 1999 Regular Session.

Citizens' Advisory Committee

The committee was appointed by the Joint Rules Committee to determine an appropriate level of legislative compensation and to develop a process for adjusting legislative pay in the future. As part of its fact-finding process, the advisory committee sent a survey to every member of the General Assembly to determine the actual time and costs involved in conducting legislative business and to provide an opportunity for members to comment on the current compensation plan. Approximately 50 percent of the members responded in time for the advisory committee to compile their responses before its last meeting.

In analyzing the survey responses, the advisory committee found that 83 percent of the House and Senate members indicated that their income was adversely affected by their service in the Assembly. On average, members reported a 71 percent reduction of income during the session and a 31 percent income loss during the interim. While some members expressed strong views in opposition to any pay increases, a larger number, by a 2:1 margin, favored a salary adjustment to account for inflation since the last salary increase in 1988. Also, a significant number of members of the House and Senate expressed concern in their survey responses about the adequacy of the office expense allowance. Members reported spending as much as $6,000 and $14,000 out of pocket to maintain their legislative offices. Finally, members expressed the strongest support for the removal of the members' office expenses from the calculation of creditable compensation for retirement purposes.

After a thorough examination of the history of legislative compensation in Virginia, legislative compensation and benefit plans of other states, various state methodologies in determining reasonable compensation, and the results of the time and cost allocation survey, the advisory committee recommended the following:

1. Remove the office expense allowance in calculating retirement benefits under the Virginia Retirement System.

2. Redefine in the Code of the Virginia the term salary to include a regular annual salary and additional salary for attending meetings between sessions of the legislature.

3. Increase the regular salary of members of the General Assembly to $26,000 per year, beginning in 2000, to account for inflation since the last salary increase in 1988.

4. Increase the amount paid to members of the General Assembly attending meetings when the Assembly is not in session to $160 per day, beginning in 2000, to account for inflation since the last increase in 1984.

5. Provide a separate equipment office expense allowance up to a maximum of $2,500 for a four-year period. In order to receive reimbursements from the allowance, members must submit a voucher with accompanying receipts.

6. Provide an allowance for office operating expenses up to $1,500 per month for those members maintaining a separate legislative district office outside the General Assembly Building or the member's home or business, and up to $1,000 for those members who do not maintain a separate legislative office. In order to receive the allowance, members must file a declaration of need for reimbursement of office expenses and supplies with the Clerk of their respective house. The declaration must consist of a budget for the upcoming year and (after the first year) an accounting of the expenses of the year past.

7. Beginning in 2002, appoint a Citizens' Advisory Commission on Legislative Compensation every four years to review the compensation of members of the General Assembly and their legislative assistants and secretaries. The commission would report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly by December 1.

Joint Rules Committee Response

The committee unanimously endorsed legislation drafted to remove the office expense allowance in calculating creditable compensation for retirement benefits (HB 1486). The Joint Rules Committee also unanimously agreed to hold a public hearing in January to receive public comment on all the recommendations of the advisory committee. To facilitate the comment process, Senator Gartlan and Delegate Callahan, two members of the Joint Rules Committee, have prefiled legislation in their respective houses to implement the rest of the recommendations of the advisory committee (SB 737 and HB 1488).

1999 Procedural Resolution

Each December, the Joint Rules Committee meets to consider and sponsor a procedural resolution to govern the schedule and conduct of business for the coming session. This year, the committee agreed to prefile a procedural resolution (HJR 483) that calls for earlier deadlines for bill requests and bill introductions (see calendar). The committee decided to move up these deadlines instead of extending the session by an extra week, hoping that the earlier deadlines will help reduce the total number of bills introduced during the short session and allow members more time to consider legislation before crossover. During a typical short session, 28 percent of the 45-day session transpires before the bill cutoff deadline.

One of the first items the General Assembly will consider when it returns on January 13, 1999, will be the procedural resolution. Because the session is being extended beyond the initial constitutional limit of 30 days, a vote of two-thirds of the members elected to each house is needed to pass the resolution. A copy of the session calendar is also available on the Internet at the Division of Legislative Services' home page: http://dls.state.va.us.

The Honorable Thomas W. Moss, Jr.
     Chairman of the House Rules Committee
The Honorable Richard J. Holland
     Chairman of Senate Rules Committee
Legislative Services contact: Ginny Edwards