California legislators met briefly on Friday to ensure per diem rules were not violated due to being absent from the Capitol over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Both the Senate and Assembly typically meet regularly Monday through Thursday, with Friday taken off so that most members can travel back to their respected districts. By meeting on Friday for even a few minutes, lawmakers would ensure their per diem payment.
The National Conference of State Legislatures asserts that members receives $141.86 each day they are in session to cover housing and meal costs in Sacramento. Each California legislator collects a $95,290.56 annual salary.
Comparatively New York lawmakers receive a $171 per diem and a $79,000 salary, while members in Michigan make $71,685 and receive a $10,800 yearly expense allowance. Click here to view all state’s salary and per diem rates on the 2011 NCSL Legislator Compensation Table.
NCSL has defined state session lengths throughout the country with a “Red, White and Blue” formula.
“Red Legislatures” most resemble Congress, because of the size of the state’s population. These are all full time, and requiring 80 percent or more of a full time job. California, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania are in this category.
“White Legislatures” are defined as a hybrid model. Members claim to spend more than two-thirds time being a legislator, but do not make enough in nearly all cases to not have an additional job. NCSL classifies 23 states in this category, including Arizona, Oregon, Texas and Colorado.
“Blue Legislatures” are considered to be traditional or citizen legislatures. Salaries are lower, and staff sizes are small. It is the equivalent to a part-time job. States such as Utah, Montana, North and South Dakota, New Hampshire and Wyoming are in this category.
Most states fall somewhere between “Red” and “Blue”, not necessary fitting the exact profile. As states needs evolve with population change, lawmakers are within their rights to propose changes to session length through legislation.