Some Lawyer-Lawmakers Able to Boost Income by Affecting Worker’s Comp Laws

November 9, 2016

Investigative Reports

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
By HANNAH HILL

money

There’s more to lawmakers’ salary than 10 grand

Lawmakers complain frequently that their average take-home pay, $10,400, is too low. Indeed, their allegedly low pay is the chief reason why lawmakers occasionally try to pass controversial salary increases. Two years ago, in fact, they even commissioned a study that concluded – not surprisingly – that lawmakers ought to be given a pay raise.

But take a look at their statements of economic interest and consider just one area of law practice.

Presumed incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Luke Rankin listed over $226,000 in legal fees from worker’s compensation cases on his 2016 statement of economic interest. While this may seem innocuous, a lawyer practicing law, it is important to note that worker’s compensation commissioners must be voted on by the Senate – meaning Rankin and any other lawyer who practices in front of the commission votes on the commissioners.

Further, any legislation dealing with the worker’s compensation commission goes through the Judiciary Committee in the House and Senate. These lawyer-legislators have an obvious incentive to make the laws and regulations as pro-claimant as possible.

House Judiciary chairman Greg Delleney made less than his Senate counterpart but still brought in over $181,000, according to his 2016 statement of economic interest. While he does not vote on commissioner appointments, he has the power to kill or advance worker’s compensation bills.

These chairmen aren’t the only ones cashing in on worker’s compensation cases. A few members of the judiciary committees and/or their law firms listed substantial sums from the Workers’ Compensation Commission for 2016:

  • Chris Murphy: $5,000
  • Rep. Beth Bernstein: $275,000
  • Sen. Creighton Coleman: $35,853

So yes, lawmakers’ salary is set at a seemingly low $10,400. But there are scores of ways the lawmaking profession allows members of the General Assembly to make their take-home pay substantially more than it would be otherwise.