Job for citizen-legislators

Council pay: Anne Arundel, Howard lawmakers should not be compensated as full-time employees.

October 11, 2001

ONE ANNE Arundel County councilwoman estimates that she spends 60 hours a week doing her job as vice chairwoman.

Nobody in county government who has witnessed Barbara Samorajczyk's tenacity on almost every local issue would disagree with that.

But as current councils in Anne Arundel and Howard counties prepare to set pay levels for the council members who take office next year, they should remember that these aren't supposed to be full-time jobs.

And they shouldn't be paid full-time salaries.

Nothing in the county charters describes local lawmakers as full-time employees. In fact, notes to the Anne Arundel Charter state: "The Charter board is convinced that membership on the Council is an honor, a duty, and a responsibility of the citizens of the community," indicating that council members were always thought to be citizen-legislators. This should remain the case.

Five of Anne Arundel's seven council members earn income in addition to their $28,600 salaries ($30,250 for the vice chairman and $33,000 for the chairman), and three of the five Howard council members have other employment.

Commissions that set the salaries will release their recommendations on council compensation -- which also includes benefits -- before council members vote on the packages. The panel in Howard (where members will get $33,800 annually beginning in December) also will suggest the compensation for the county executive, beginning the next term.

The compensation panels and councils should forget about promoting council members to full-time government employees. Instead, they should keep in mind that they're reimbursing citizens for doing their duty.

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