Legislators’ Election & Compensation
The Legislature consists of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The state constitution establishes the maximum number of senators and representatives, which is the present membership: Senate, 39; House, 105; total, 144.
The constitution specifies that each member of the Senate and the House be elected from a single-member district by a simple majority of those voting in that district. Members of both houses are elected at the same time for four-year concurrent terms on the same dates that the governor and other statewide elected officials are elected. Legislators, newly elected and returning, are limited to three consecutive terms in the house in which they serve beginning with their 1996 terms. A legislator who serves for half a term or longer (two years) is considered to have served a full term for purposes of the term limits law.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), state legislative bodies can be categorized into three general groups. Ten states have “professional” legislatures, which generally require 80 percent or more of the legislator’s time and pay their legislators enough that most of them would not require outside income. Seventeen states have “citizen” legislatures, which require 50 percent or less of the legislator’s time to be devoted to legislative work. Legislative compensation in these states is quite low. The 23 remaining states, including Louisiana, have “hybrid” legislatures that typically require two-thirds of a legislator’s time. Although the income in hybrid legislatures is higher than that of citizen legislatures, it is usually not high enough to be a sole source of income.
In 2007, the Council of State Governments (CSG) reported that 6 states offer legislative members an annual base salary only. Nine states provide legislators with a daily “per diem” allowance only. Thirty-five states, including Louisiana, provide legislators with both a base salary and a per diem amount.
Louisiana legislators receive a salary, per diem, and various expense allowances. Therefore, the compensation of a legislator varies based on the length of the regular session, the number of committee meetings attended, and the occurrence of special sessions.
Each Louisiana legislator receives an annual salary. For the 2008-2009 fiscal year, legislator’s salaries are $16,800 annually, with the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House receiving a higher salary of $32,000 annually, and the president pro tempore and speaker pro tempore receiving $24,500 annually.
The chairperson and the vice chairperson of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget receive an annual salary of $28,000 set by the committee instead of per diem for meetings of that committee; this is in addition to other per diem and mileage reimbursement.
In addition to the salary, each member receives a monthly unvouchered expense allowance of $500 per month.
Each Louisiana legislator receives a daily allowance or payment (per diem) for:
- Each day the Legislature is in session for a regular or special session,
- attendance at approved conferences/conventions or on official state business, and
- attendance as a committee member at interim committee meetings held when the Legislature is not in session.
The per diem payment is set at the per diem rate federal government employees receive for travel to Baton Rouge on official business and is recalculated each year. Effective July 1, 2008, the rate is $143 a day. At that rate legislators will receive a minimum of $8,580 for a full 60-calendar-day, odd-year session or $12,155 for a full 85-calendar day, even-year session.
Assuming an average of six “special session” days per year and 22 days per year in which a legislator must attend interim committee meetings, Louisiana’s average legislative pay after July 1, 2008 would be:
|VERAGE COMPENSATION FOR LOUISIANA LEGISLATORS|
|Average Legislative Compensation||Odd-number years||Even-number years|
|Expense allowance (unvouchered)||$6,000||$6,000|
|Average annual per diem (regular sessions)||$8,580||$12,155|
|Average annual per diem (special sessions)||$858||$858|
|Average annual per diem (interim meetings)||$3,146||$3,146|
According to the NCSL 2007 data, average legislator compensation (including salary, per diem and unvouchered expenses) is $68,599 in professional legislatures, $35,326 in hybrid legislatures like Louisiana’s, and $15,984 in citizen legislatures.
Mileage and Travel-Related Allowances
2007 CSG data indicate that 47 states, including Louisiana, provide mileage reimbursement to legislators. 2007 reimbursements ranged from $0.10 to $0.485 per mile. Hawaii and New Jersey do not offer any mileage reimbursement. California provides members with a vehicle in lieu of mileage reimbursement.
For 2008-2009, Louisiana legislators will be reimbursed $0.585 cents a mile for round trips to legislative sessions (no more than one per week) and interim committee meetings. Commercial coach air fare is allowed if a legislator lives more than 100 miles from the capitol. The mileage rate is the same as that for federal employees.
Members are reimbursed expenses surrounding conference and convention travel provided the travel is approved in advance and is in furtherance of the conduct of holding of office. Reimbursements may include registration fees, lodging and air fare or mileage. The per diem (above) provided during attendance is intended to cover all other travel-related expenses.
The president of the Senate and speaker of the House receive an expense account of up to $10,000 per year to cover their travel, lodging and other travel-related expenses.
District Office Allowances
Legislators receive up to $500 per month (vouchered) to pay rent and utility expenses to maintain an office in the parish(es) they represent. In addition, they receive a one-time allowance of $2,000 for office equipment and furnishings for their first term in office. Legislators also receive $500 for equipment and furnishings in each subsequent term.
Each member is provided with a desktop computer for his or her district office and a laptop computer in the Capitol during session. High-speed Internet access and up to three phone lines are also provided to each district office.
Each state representative and senator is entitled to a supplemental office allowance of up to $1,500 per month for other vouchered expenses related to the operation of the district office and performance of duties as a legislator. This expense allowance is used to pay for district office telephone lines, office equipment and supplies, and other approved reimbursable expenses. The House and Senate Executive Committees set the maximum amount of this allowance annually.
Each legislator may hire one or more legislative assistants who are employed as unclassified state employees. The legislator sets the salary and qualification levels for their assistant(s). The total amount available to the legislator for salaries is established by the Legislative Budgetary Control Council.
Health and Retirement Benefits
Legislative members are eligible to participate in health insurance and life insurance plans provided by the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits (OGB.) The state pays approximately 75 percent of the member’s portion of the premium and approximately 50 percent of the premium for the member’s dependents. Legislators are eligible to keep their benefits when they leave office only if they have retired or meet the definition of retirement as provided by the OGB Rules.
The legislative Office of Human Resources offers members additional health benefits such as vision and dental coverage, however, the members themselves are responsible for payment of those premiums.
Legislative members are not eligible to participate in, or receive credit for service in, any public retirement system sponsored by the state of Louisiana, unless the member was serving on January 1, 1997, or participating in a public retirement system at that time. Retirement benefits earned are 3.5 percent of the member’s salary per year, which is 1 percent more than other state employees.
Housing and Housing Allowances
The president of the Senate and speaker of the House receive up to $1,000 per month to maintain a residence in Baton Rouge.
Some lawmakers are allowed to rent an apartment at the Pentagon Barracks complex, across the street from the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. The president of the Senate and speaker of the House decide which of the 144 legislators will be granted the opportunity to stay in the 40-unit complex. The decision normally turns on seniority, committee chair appointments and other duties, and individual need. One-bedroom units rent for $300 per month; two-bedroom units rent for $375 per month. Legislators renting the units are responsible for payment of the monthly rent.
Annually, each house meets in its own chamber at the capitol in Baton Rouge for a regular session. Odd-numbered and even-numbered year regular sessions are conducted differently. Even-numbered year regular sessions (general sessions) begin at noon the last Monday in March and run for not more than 60 legislative days (a day when either or both houses are meeting) during a continuous 85-calendar-day period. The Legislature is prohibited from considering proposals to levy a new tax or increase an existing one during these sessions. Odd-numbered year regular sessions (hybrid fiscal and limited-general sessions) begin at noon the last Monday in April and may run no more than 45 legislative days during a continuous 60-calendar day period. They are primarily limited to certain fiscal matters. These include legislation that provides for enactment of a general appropriation bill; implementation of a capital budget; making an appropriation; levying or authorizing a new tax; increasing an existing tax; legislating with regard to tax exemptions, exclusions, deductions, reductions, repeals or credits; or issuing bonds. In addition to fiscal bills, legislators can also introduce up to five non-fiscal bills dealing with state concerns and an unlimited number of local bills.
An extraordinary (special) session, not longer than 30 calendar days, may be called by the governor or the Legislature. The governor or presiding officers must give at least five days notice prior to the convening of a special session through issuance of a call (proclamation). The call states the purpose(s) of the session, the date it convenes and its duration.
Most of the Legislature’s work is done by committees in meetings held during a session or between sessions. Senate and House rules define the jurisdiction of each standing committee.
Committee hearings are open to the public when proposed legislation is under consideration and a vote or other action is to be taken. House and Senate rules require that advance notice be given of committee hearings, stating the time, place and agenda. House and Senate standing committees post their agendas outside their committee rooms before each meeting. However, the agendas are not binding. A committee may address only those items on the agenda, but it is not required to address them all or to address them in the order listed. House standing committees also are required to post their rules of procedure. House and Senate rules require minutes, including votes, of committee meetings to be recorded and transcribed. The minutes, as approved by the committee, are public record.
Both the Senate and House have standing committees that meet during legislative sessions to consider and report on proposed legislation. (See list of committees.) The House has 16 standing committees and the Senate has 17 standing committees. The Senate standing committees each have seven members except for Finance (11 members) and Revenue and Fiscal Affairs (nine members). No House standing committee, except the committee on appropriations, can have more than 18 members excluding the chairperson. No representative can serve on more than three standing committees nor on more than one with the same meeting schedule. The speaker and speaker pro tempore are ex officio members of all House standing committees and can vote when serving in this capacity. In the interim, the speaker or speaker pro tempore may designate another House member to serve in his or her place, with such designee having the right to vote.
Standing committees of each house also conduct meetings in the interim to receive testimony from interested persons, gather information, develop legislative proposals and conduct oversight activities. They also may consider prefiled bills and determine the reports to be made on such bills. But they may not issue a final report on any bill until the Legislature is in session. The committees may also conduct studies in the interim. House rules allow two additional representatives to be appointed to a standing committee for an interim study.
The Legislative Process
Prefiling and Referral to Committees
Legislators may prefile a bill at any time between sessions, except between the end of the last legislative session before a general election for legislators and the promulgation of the election returns. After the election, legislators may prefile bills. The prefiling deadline is 5 p.m. the Friday before the first day of a regular session. The presiding officer of each house refers a prefiled bill to a standing committee and the clerk of the House or secretary of the Senate copies it for distribution and lists it on the interim calendar. A bill filed in the Senate within five days before the start of the regular session is printed and distributed but not referred to a committee until the session begins. Prefiling does not constitute introduction. The author of a prefiled bill may withdraw it any time before introduction. In both houses, prefiled bills are assigned to committee by the presiding officer, but may be reassigned if the author objects.
Introduction and Reading of Bills
Only legislators may introduce bills and resolutions. A legislator may introduce only five bills, excluding prefiled bills and those consistent with exceptions listed in joint rules, during a session. A bill intended to raise revenue (increase or levy new taxes) or to appropriate money must be introduced in the House of Representatives. Bills addressing other subjects may originate in either house. All bills must be read at least by title on three separate days in each house; thus, five days is the minimum time within which a bill can be passed by both houses. Bills are introduced when they are read to the house for the first time. Customarily only titles of the bills are read. All prefiled bills and resolutions are introduced and read for the first of the required three times on the first day of the session. Bills filed after the session begins are printed and distributed after introduction.
Deadline for Introduction
All bills (prefiled as well as those filed after the session begins) must be introduced in even-numbered years by midnight of the 10th calendar day of the session and by midnight of the 30th calendar day of the session in odd-numbered years. Proposed constitutional amendments must be prefiled at least 10 days prior to a regular session, or within the first five calendar days of a special session. The governor’s proposed operating (executive) budget document must be submitted to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget 45 days (30 days in the first year of the term) prior to the regular session, and his recommended capital budget document and related bill must be submitted by the eighth calendar day of the session.
Bills are numbered consecutively, by house, at the time they are prefiled or, if not prefiled, when they are introduced. Specific numbers are assigned to three House bills: House Bill 1, the General Appropriation Bill; House Bill 2, the Capital Outlay Bill, and House Bill 3, the Omnibus Bond Bill.
Committee Referral and Hearing
After introduction, a bill is read a second time and referred to a standing committee. Assignment of a bill to a particular committee can influence its fate–whether it will be killed, changed substantially or have a good chance of being enacted. Bills filed during session are referred to committee by the speaker in the House or by motion in the Senate. Rules of both houses require that bills be referred to committee according to the subject matter. During sessions, legislators in either house can object to committee referral of a bill and have a bill reassigned, by majority vote, to another committee. The constitution requires a public committee hearing and a committee report on a bill before it can be considered for final passage. However, it is possible for a bill that is a duplicate of another to bypass a committee. A committee is not compelled to consider bills assigned to it in numerical order and some bills never receive a hearing and thus die in committee. To ensure a hearing, the author can arrange with the committee chairperson for a hearing. A House and Senate rule requires that a committee hear a bill originating in the respective house if, on or before the 10th day before final adjournment, the author requests in writing that the bill be heard.
No bill can be finally passed in either house unless a committee has reported on it. Legislators in either house, by majority vote, can force a committee of their house to report on a bill. A committee report is only advisory. A committee of either house may report a bill in several ways: favorably; with amendments; by substitute (another bill with a different number — permitted only in the house of origin); without action (Senate only); unfavorably; or either favorably with amendments, or without action with the recommendation that the bill be recommitted to another committee (allowed only in the House of Representatives). Only one type of committee report may be given on each bill. Minority reports may be made, but they are rare.
Action on Committee Reports
Several courses of floor action are possible at the time a committee report is considered. The report may be adopted by a majority vote of those present and the bill ordered engrossed (retyped to include committee amendments, if any) and placed on the calendar for final passage. The bill may be re-committed to the same committee or sent to another committee. In the House, a committee may recommend that a bill be recommitted; in the Senate, re-commitment requires a motion by a senator and approval by a majority of members. The bill may be postponed or returned to the calendar, subject to call. It also may be postponed indefinitely or laid on the table, either of which usually kills the bill. The bill can also be withdrawn. Bills reported unfavorably in the house of origin usually are withdrawn by motion of the committee chairperson. Bills that receive an unfavorable committee report in the opposite house usually are indefinitely postponed (killed). Occasionally a house will refuse to adopt an unfavorable committee report on a bill and instead vote to override the committee report and engross the bill so that it may be brought up for third reading and floor consideration.
Third Reading and Final PassageAn engrossed bill is read for the third time. The bill is then debated and any member may propose amendments from the floor. Following floor debate, the bill is voted upon by the members of the house for final passage. If passed without amendments, the bill is sent to the second house. If passed with amendments, the bill is re-engrossed to include all floor amendments and then sent to the second house. A majority of the elected members of each house is required to approve a bill. However, some measures require the approval of two-thirds of the members in each house. This is called a supermajority.
Action in Second House
After final passage, the re-engrossed bill is sent to the other house where substantially the same process is repeated. If the second house passes the bill in identical form, it is enrolled (prepared in its final form to include all amendments adopted by both houses) and signed by the presiding officers and delivered to the governor within three days of passage. If the bill passes the second house but not in the same form as the original house, it is sent back to the first house for concurrence in amendments, by the same vote required for final passage of the bill. Amendments to a bill adopted in the second house are not officially incorporated into the bill until approved by the house of origin. If amendments are adopted, the bill is enrolled and sent to the governor.
If the house in which a bill originates refuses to agree to amendments proposed by the second house, either the bill dies or a conference committee is appointed to reconcile differences. The conference committee is not limited to consideration of only those points of difference between the two house versions. It may completely rewrite the bill. If the conference committee agrees to a compromise, the conference committee report is submitted to both houses for adoption or rejection. The bill dies if the conference committee fails to report or if either house fails to adopt the conference committee version. If the conference committee report is accepted, the bill is enrolled and sent to the governor.
Action by the Governor
The governor has 10 days to sign or veto an enrolled bill if the Legislature is in session on the 10th day after delivery to the governor. The governor has 20 days from the time he or she receives a bill to take action if the 10th day after delivery occurs after adjournment sine die. If a governor fails to veto a bill within the stipulated deadline, the bill becomes law without his or her signature.
The governor may use an item veto in bills appropriating money. This allows the governor to nullify particular items of an appropriation bill, but sign the remainder into law. If the governor wants to change an appropriation, he or she must eliminate the entire line item.
If the governor vetoes a bill while the Legislature is in session, the bill is returned to the Legislature for reconsideration. If bills are vetoed after the Legislature has adjourned, a veto session may be convened. To override a governor’s veto, an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the elected members of each house is required. If the veto is overridden, the bill becomes law.
Bills passed by the Legislature and approved by the governor (or not vetoed) become effective on August 15, following a regular session, or on the 60th day after final adjournment of a special session, unless the measure specifies another date. Sometimes measures that conflict with each other are enacted during a session. If the conflict cannot be resolved, the last proposal passed by the Legislature prevails as the latest expression of legislative will.