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Freshman lawmakers already on state payroll weeks before swearing-in

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Starting this week, freshman lawmakers are on the state’s payroll even though they don’t get sworn in until January.

Critics say lawmakers shouldn’t get their first paycheck until their sworn in at the Capitol in January.

However, soon to be lawmakers say there’s a misconception about what they do between Election Day and then.

For the past four weeks, freshman lawmaker-elect Barb Gleim’s been preparing for her new role in politics.

“I’m Representative-elect for the 199th district,” Gleim said.

She’s scheduled a move, been to the Capitol, and even set up appointments.

“We’ve already helped some constituents actually. We’ve had emails through the website and we responded to them. I had a meeting in here today with constituents,” she added.

This week Gleim and her freshmen colleagues went on the state’s payroll even though they’re not sworn in until January.

“I can’t go in a vote right now or start up the bill process. But we can still service the constituents,” Gleim added

Base salary in PA is $88,600.

It’s the second highest in the country, behind California.

That means over the course of the next month, Gleim and her freshman colleagues will take home a little more than $7,000.

PA is one of the only state’s in the county that follows this practice.

Eric Epstein ran and lost in the House in November.

He’s also with watchdog group ‘Rock the Capital’.

“It’s a practice we should eradicate. Freshman legislators have a decision. This is the first bite of the rotten apple. They can either take a bite and make bad decisions going down the road, or say hey I’m not going to take the money and donate it to charity,” Epstein said.

“You have to be here working. I mean if I wasn’t here working then that would be a different story, but I am,” Gleim exclaimed.

Nathan Benefield with the Commonwealth Foundation doesn’t have an issue with this practice.

But he questions whether we need a full-time legislature.

“A lot of other states have a part-time legislature that meets only a few months a year. I point to Texas as an example, which is a big state. Bigger than Pennsylvania. But their legislature only meets a few months out of the year, is part-time and they really only pass a budget every two years,” Benefield said.

Experts say this practice has been around since at least the last time the state constitution was ratified in the 1960s.

The freshman class is sworn in New Years Day.

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