There was a public outcry from people who saw the raise as outrageous and undeserved.
There was partisan outcry from Republicans who saw the raise as a chance to denounce the opposition. They promised to rescind it if they became the majority.
When that happened, they decided to let the people of Alabama repeal it for them rather than repeal the raise themselves.
So on the ballot this fall will be yet another amendment to Alabama’s over-amended state Constitution. This one will tie legislative pay to the median household income of an Alabama family.
This would not roll back the clock to the pre-raise days, but it would mean current legislative annual salaries would drop from $53,388 to around $45,980 — still above the $40,474 that is the state median, but there are travel expenses to consider.
That’s pretty good pay for what many consider a part-time job.
But as state Rep. Mike Bell, R-Madison, sponsor of the amendment, put it, “nobody runs for the Legislature for the money.”
Why, of course they do. They may not run for the salary, but most candidates run to advance a cause and protect an interest, and money — income — is almost always involved. A businessman will run to protect business interests, a teacher to protect teachers, a farmer to make sure pro-farm legislation passes.
And the lower the legislative pay, the more vulnerable legislators are to the overtures of special-interest groups.
But that is not the point here. The point is that in a convoluted way, the sponsors of this amendment have done something about an issue that has been gnawing at Alabama’s body politic for a long time, and in the process they have addressed two fundamental questions.
First, what is a legislator worth?
Based on this amendment, legislators are worth more than they were being paid before the raise, but less than they voted to pay themselves.
Second, how do you determine their worth?
Base it on what an Alabama family earns.
It may not make much sense in this era when demands for pay based on quality of work and productivity are increasingly common. But it is likely the best those we send to Montgomery can come up with.
That alone says as much about the Alabama Legislature as it does about the amendment.