Tolbert: Salary Commission To Live-stream Next Meeting (UPDATED)

by Jason Tolbert (jasontcpa@yahoo.com) 9 views 

To my disappointment, the first two meetings of the new Independent Citizens Commission have not been live-streamed as they were hosted on the Senate side of the capitol.

However, their scheduled meeting for next Wednesday, January 7 has been announced for House Committee Room 151 at 8:30 a.m. This room is fully wired for live-streaming and – according to what I am told – it will be. Kudos to the commission for doing this.

I actually asked a commissioner to consider doing this last week. Commissioner Stephen Tipton brought this up at Tuesday’s meeting.

It is simply a good idea and will add transparency to the process. I am glad to see them move in this direction.

While on the process, I will note that it still appears the commission is moving at quite a slow pace considering their deadline for the initial review of February 2. I received a document request that had some interesting discussions involving the panel’s pace.

Notably, on December 19 after the first meeting, Commissioner Tipton asked for some basic information from the Auditor’s staff (which provides staffing to the commission) – a list of officials under the commission’s review and their salaries, 3-5 years worth of expense reimbursement data, and salary information for similar positions in surrounding states. This is primary data the commission needs to do its job, so it certainly is the right data for Tipton to request.

But for some reason, the chairman of the commission, Larry Ross, responded on December 22 that he is “not sure if the thoroughness of (this information) will be ready by our December 30th meeting.”

As of this posting, this information has still not been provided, but the Auditor’s staff tells me they should have it soon. I can tell you that two of these three items are very simple to provide. In fact, I have both linked below.  I don’t have the expense reimbursement data at my fingertips, but could likely get that quickly as well.

I do hope that the commission will pick up its speed on their meetings. Tuesday’s meeting was largely dominated by Arkansas Times columnist Ernie Dumas speaking about his opinion on state salaries to the commission. I am not sure the benefit of this. Perhaps Dumas could just email a link to his columns on the subject to the commissioners instead.

The studies have been done. The data is available. The commission just needs to look it over, decide what they want to do, and get on with the job.

Current Listing of Individuals, Position/Title, Annual Salary for the Positions the Commission’s Review…
Executive
Governor         87,759
Lieutenant Governor         42,315
Secretary of State         54,848
Attorney General         73,132
Treasurer of State         54,848
Commissioner of State Lands         54,848
Auditor of State         54,848
Judicial
Supreme Court Chief Justice       161,601
Supreme Court Associate Justices (6)       149,589
Court of Appeals Chief Judge       147,286
Court of Appeals Judges (11)       144,982
Circuit Judges (121)       140,372
District Judges (38)       125,495
Legislative
Speaker of the House         17,771
State Representatives (99)         15,869
Senate President Pro Tempore         17,771
State Senators (34)         15,869
Salary Information for Positions under the Commission’s Review of Surrounding States from two recent independent studies…
The Council of State Governments study from “The Book of the States 2014” on salaries of state officials…
The National Conference on State Legislatures study on State Legislators salaries…
UPDATE – Sen. Jon Woods submitted another request for an opinion from the Attorney General clarifying the time table for the salary commission to conduct its business. Woods asks…
“Must the Independent Citizens Commission provide the proposed adjustments in salary levels for all relevant elected officials in the ‘initial review’ or may the Commission issue a fact-finding report as the initial review and make decisions on future salaries at a later date?”
I am told an opinion from the AG could be coming soon and obviously this would dramatically change the speed with which the Commission is operating.

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