Please Spare us from a “Professional” Legislature

John LaPlante editorializes that states (Minnesota) should avoid the “professional legislature” model (e.g. Pennsylvania):

The personal dynamics in professional legislatures also favor increased spending. Professional legislatures offer more opportunities for logrolling. When legislators spend more time with each other in longer sessions and have more assurance that their vote-trading partners will be around in the next session, logrolling—and its tendency to ‘buy’ votes pass legislation—is more likely.

In addition, the longer a legislator is in office, whether through a longer session, more terms, or both, the more opportunities that person has to learn how to produce legislation. Another factor is that time in service increases the social pressure to adapt the culture of spending.

Owings and Borck come up with a quantitative analysis that uses 10 different factors that might influence growth in government spending. These factors include population, state incomes and federal revenues, among other things.

Their analysis finds that simply having a professional legislature rather than a citizen legislature increases state spending by 12 percent. “Government spending in states with citizen legislatures is significantly lower than in states with professional legislatures,” they conclude. “By reducing the professionalism of their legislatures, citizens, if they so wish, can effectively constrain the size of government.”