Election day: Minnesota’s chance to change a constitutional amendment

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Election day: Minnesota’s chance to change a constitutional amendment

On the ballot this week, there will be other decisions to vote on — not just Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump.

Minnesota residents will soon be voting on a constitutional amendment looking to give citizens the power to raise the salaries of state lawmakers.

Right now, the Minnesota Constitution says state lawmakers have the power to set their own salaries. Residents of Minnesota will be voting to remove that amendment.

Instead of lawmakers holding the power, an established, independent citizen-only council will prescribe salaries to lawmakers. Governor Mark Dayton would choose which citizens would be part of the council deciding how much the salaries should be raised.

As of right now, Minnesota legislators in the state House and Senate make $31,140 per year. The job is considered part time for these employees. The last salary increase was in 1999. Several legislators have complained about being unable to have another job after the legislative session, which ended in May of 2016 and will start again on the first Tuesday of January.

Legislators say raising salaries would help them do their job better, as they could focus on the position without the distraction of another part-time job.

Minnesota is not the only state that has voted on this issue. About 20 other states face this issue and now present a constitutional amendment vote on their ballot. A difference between states is the makeup of the council and the ultimate-authority rule in specific states.

The big question is why can’t legislators just fix it themselves when they have the power through the constitution right now. In the Minnesota Post, Senator Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley said the ideas behind the amendment are to simply remove the conflict of interest in letting legislators vote on their own pay.

There are many legislators who agree with the notion of giving this choice back to citizens, but some oppose it.

“This is an egregious attempt to use a backdoor on their own pay,” said John Rouleau, executive director of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition. In a recent article on ballotpedia.com, the Libertarian party stated their opposition to the motion as well. They said it would give the governor too much power in Minnesota.

If a voter leaves this choice blank, his or her vote is considered to be in disagreement with the amendment — the absence of a vote is considered a “no.”

To look at the amendment that will be proposed on the ballot, view this Nov. 8 sample ballot.

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