Legislators’ day jobs

What do a state legislator and an aspiring actor have in common?

Neither one can afford to quit his day job — and that can be bad news for the public. A new report from the CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY charges that the personal and professional ties to industry maintained by many state legislators make them ripe for conflicts of interest.

Unlike congressional seats, most state legislative positions are part-time, with average annual salaries of only $18,000. That’s generally not enough to pay the bills, so most legislators have some other job as well, and all too often that job is in an industry regulated by the state legislature.

Some legislators argue that this makes for better law: Who better to regulate an industry than someone who knows it? Maybe so, but some of that law-making makes you wonder. Two legislators in Nebraska pushed for legislation to increase compensation to lottery retailers, taking the money from funds earmarked to pay for education, the environment, and even treatment programs for gambling addiction. The legislators were themselves lottery retailers.