Tolbert: AG Says Salary Commission Must Propose Changes In 90 Days Or Face Limits

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 79 views 

As I reported last week, Sen. Jon Woods asked the Attorney General for an opinion on the timetable for the newly formed salary commission to make recommendations. Woods asked, “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?”

AG Dustin McDaniel responded on Monday with an opinion that basically says the commission must either make the recommendation during this initial review period or else it will be subject to the 15% limitation upward or downward as it does in all subsequent years. Writes McDaniel…

“This question cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but instead must be conditional. Nothing in Amendment 94 requires the Commission to ever make adjustments. But if the Commission does not propose a salary adjustment by the conclusion of the 90-day initial review, then Amendment 94 provides (1) that the existing salaries continue in force, and (2) that any subsequent proposed adjustment will be subject to a 15% cap. Therefore, if (as you say) the Commission decides to ‘make decisions on future salaries at a later date,’ the Commission will be limited by the 15% cap.”

McDaniel further clarifies that “If the Commission wants to adjust salaries and have that adjustment be free of the 15% cap, then the Commission must propose its adjustment(s) during the 90-day initial review period.”

This 90-day window will end on February 3, 2015, which is about four weeks from today. That means that the Commission will have to pick up the pace to get these proposals completed in that time frame.  In their first meeting, this was not completely clear and the Commission discussed primarily focusing on a review during the initial 90-day period with subsequent proposals coming much later – perhaps as long as six months to a year from now.

It appears from my reading of the opinion that this means the Commission has to “propose” the increases by February 3, but that they may consider public comments following this.

Although this time table sounds quick, it is similar to the timetable other salary commissions have used.

In Oregon for example, the salary commission – the Public Officials Compensation Commission – was created in 2008. They began meeting July 9 and had their proposal ready by September 4. After a public comment period, they voted to finalize their proposal on October 30.  Their website has a pretty good template complete with meeting agendas and minutes for our new salary commission to study. The Oregon final recommendations can be seen here.

Our salary commission plans to meet again on Wednesday, January 5 and fortunately they plan to live-stream this meeting.  It will be interesting to watch how this AG opinion changes the discussion.

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