On Beacon Hill, help is easy to find
Massachusetts lawmakers have pared back the size of the legislative staff in the midst of the current recession but the state still ranks as one of the most aide-heavy legislatures in the country.
Last year, Bay State lawmakers had 903 year-round staffers to assist them in their day-to-day affairs, according to the most recent data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. That averages out to 4.5 permanent staffers per legislator, and it’s down 3.5 percent, or 32 jobs, since 2003.
Of the five states that had larger legislatures than Massachusetts, only New York and Pennsylvania employed more permanent staffers, with the two states averaging 12.6 and 11.5 staffers per lawmaker, respectively. California ranks the highest, with 17.2 permanent staff members for each lawmaker, but the Golden State, which has six times the population of Massachusetts, has just 120 legislators compared with the 200 here (160 House members and 40 Senate members).
The national average is 3.7 permanent staffers per legislator, but that can be misleading since a number of states have part-time legislatures, which add temporary staff positions while they are in session.
Since 1979, Massachusetts has increased its permanent legislative staff payroll by nearly 52 percent. That’s far below the national average increase of 91 percent among all legislatures. New Mexico recorded an eye-popping 330 percent increase in permanent staffers over the last 30 years, but it had only 40 legislative aides to start with in 1979, and lawmakers themselves don’t get a penny for serving.According to the Massachusetts Senate rules, each member can hire at least four aides and some can get the green light from the Senate President to hire more, depending on their seniority or committee assignments. In the House, representatives are allowed to hire one aide but the principal committee on which they sit has additional staff members who carry out tasks for members.
The Senate president, in addition to staff allotted to handle district duties, is authorized to have at least four additional aides. The House Speaker, in addition to district staff, has at least five aides.