The Jolt: Georgia legislators looking for a salary boost may turn to voters

Georgia’s State Capitol. (File photo)

Credit: File photo

Credit: File photo

Georgia’s State Capitol. (File photo)

Technically, serving in the Georgia General Assembly is a part-time job. Yet it is one that comes with long hours, especially during session, and pressure to be visible in the community year-round. The annual salary is $17,342 a year.

The prospect of government officials raising their own salary is a touchy one at any level of government, which is why so many bureaucrats often turn to the General Assembly to do it for them. Because after all, who wants to face the fall out of voting to increase their own pay?

But who do the legislators turn to?

This year, it may be up to Georgia voters, the AJC’s James Salzer reports.

A bipartisan resolution sponsored by state Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock, who isn’t seeking reelection this year, would put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall to take the issue out of the General Assembly’s hands.

If the resolution passes the General Assembly — it may be up for a vote in a committee next week — and is OK’d by voters in November, legislators would be paid 60% of the median household income of Georgians, starting in 2025.

Cantrell told the House Budget and Fiscal Oversight Committee on Wednesday that the proposal would raise legislative pay to about $36,000.

This idea not only would give state lawmakers an instant boost, but it would ensure their salary rises automatically going forward. Alabama has a similar law in place, and their legislators make $51,734 a year.

Other options are on the table for lawmakers, including a salary increase baked into the mid-year budget that is on the table in the Senate. And they do sometimes get a cost-of-living bump, most recently in 2008.

Cantrell told Salzer he landed on 60% of the median household income after reviewing studies that showed the job of a legislator is about a two-thirds of a full-time duty, even though some in leadership work much more.


UNDER THE GOLD DOME, Thursday, March 3:

  • 8:00 a.m.: Committee hearings begin;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The House gavels into session;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The Senate convenes.


We’re keeping an eye on:

  • The state Senate floor, where the midyear budget will be up for consideration;
  • The progress of a possible 2022 referendum on horse racing in Georgia.
  • Next week’s election qualifying period, which runs from Monday, March 7 to noon on Friday, March 11. We’ll know definitively by then who’s in and who’s out for the 2022 elections. Expect a few surprises.


In case you missed it: The state House Health and Human Services Committee passed a bill from House Speaker David Ralston to overhaul mental health care in Georgia. In an unusual twist, Ralston testified before the vote Wednesday, telling lawmakers it’s “the most important legislation we will take up all year.”

Read about it here.


Georgia State Rep. Saira Draper, D-Atlanta. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

icon to expand image

Credit: Courtesy photo

Over the last decade, Stacey Abrams and Bee Nguyen represented the same Atlanta-based Georgia House district. Now another voting rights advocate wants to follow in their footsteps.

Saira Draper, who heads voter protection at the Democratic Party of Georgia, said Thursday she’s running for the open seat. Nguyen, who succeeded Abrams in 2017, is running for secretary of state.

“This district has a history of electing formidable women who are experts in voting rights,” Draper said in an interview. “It’s more critical than ever that we have a proponent of elections and democracy in the Gold Dome. And I’m ready to fill that role.”

Draper is among five Democrats in the race for the deep-blue district, and her campaign revolves around her work in the 2020 cycle combating efforts to narrow voting rights.

She said she’d vote to repeal the Republican-backed election overhaul that passed last year and push for other ways to expand ballot access in Georgia.

“It’d be an honor to carry that torch from Stacey Abrams and Bee Nguyen. I’m ready to advocate legislation that benefits all Georgians – and fight against the laws that don’t.”


Big money: Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign is buying $4.2 million worth of television airtime through the May 24 primary. The statewide TV buy begins March 30.


Both the AJC and the largest newspaper based in U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s territory posted editorials Wednesday critiquing her appearance at a white supremacist gathering over the weekend.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial board wrote, “Off-color is one thing. Being willingly present where outrageous, inappropriate, anti-Semitic or racist comments are uttered is unacceptably another.”

The Rome News-Tribune, which is in the heart of the 14th Congressional District, wrote:

She has used her voice as our Congressional representative to travel the U.S. parroting claims about election fraud, and focusing much of her energy on the treatment of those held in the Washington D.C. jail on charges stemming from the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

But what about us? Where’s our voice here in the 14th District? We have none.


Shelley Wynter, the WSB radio host, was once a reliable defender of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Atlanta’s airwaves.

After the Rome Republican spoke at a pro-Putin white surpremecist rally, Wynter joined the growing list of conservatives fed up with her behavior.

He will host a show at 10 p.m. tonight featuring Greene’s three longshot GOP rivals. Announcing the special show on Twitter, Wynter wrote, “Enough is enough.”


Atlanta lobbyist John Garst has made a name for himself with a list of high-profile clients at the state Capitol, including the Buckhead City Committee.

But no client may be as well-known as the special guest at a bash Garst threw last weekend at the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which featured Kato Kaelin of O.J. Simpson trial fame as a celebrity guest.

Kaelin was flown in for the event and follows in the footsteps of previous Garst celebrity guests, Emmanuel Lewis, from the 80′s television show “Webster,” and Dustin Diamond, Screech from “Save by the Bell.”

We heard from multiple tipsters who turned up at the party, where lawmakers, lobbyists, and politicos of various stripes took selfies with Kaelin. Also spotted: Buckhead Committee leader Bill White and his husband Brian Eure, who warned party goers not to try to photograph the duo.


Republican Wayne Johnson, a candidate for Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, has a proposal he claimed would “bulletproof” absentee ballot security.

Johnson, a former financial executive, outlined a process that would involve a secure code on each absentee ballot form that voters would have to authenticate using a two-factor system. Voters would then place a uniquely generated activation code on the ballot itself.

After complying with photo ID requirements, voters would return their ballots and receive a text or a link to a website notifying them that their ballot was processed.

He is among several Republicans competing to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop.


RETIREMENT ALERT: If you’ve been following the @politicalinsidr account on Twitter, you know that our honorary chief, Jim Galloway, created it nearly 15 years ago to get in on the mysterious and novel public messaging service.

The @politicalinsidr handle has now joined Jim in retirement to focus on woodworking and has been renamed @MurphyAJC. If you already follow the account, there’s no need to do anything new.


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