STATE LEGISLATURES MAGAZINE
Back to Work for Many Legislatures
Legislators waste no time getting back to work after the holidays. In fact, although it’s not mandatory as it is some years, Massachusetts lawmakers work on the holiday this year—New Year’s Day, Jan. 1. (It’s in the state Constitution: “The general court shall assemble every year on the said first Wednesday of January.”)
Calendars are also filling fast for lawmakers in the other 35 states whose regular sessions kick off in January. The District of Columbia Council convenes Jan. 2, quickly followed by legislatures in California, Idaho and Indiana on Jan. 6. Six states start on Jan. 7, and 10 start Jan. 8.
North Carolina lawmakers, meanwhile, are waiting until May to meet, and four states won’t convene in regular session at all this year. Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas meet only in odd-numbered years—the last four of 31 states that did so in the 1960s. By the mid-1970s, the number of states meeting annually had shot up from 19 to 41. The most recent state to switch to an annual session was Oregon in 2011.
Full-Time, Part-Time and Somewhere In Between
NCSL uses three criteria to determine if a legislature is full-time, part-time or somewhere in the middle: time lawmakers spend on the job, staff size and pay.
Populous states are often “full-time” by all three measures: big staffs, big pay and many hours on the job. On the other end of the spectrum, legislators in small states usually have few staff, low pay and spend only half their time on the job. Hybrid states are mixed bags: legislators typically spend at least two-thirds of their time on the job, but their legislative pay often requires additional income. Their staff sizes vary.