Want to know why so many legislators aren’t running again? Here’s a fact: serving in the General Assembly is just not fun. Case in point is Rep. Nathan Baskerville (D-Vance), who announced yesterday he’s not running again. Baskerville is only 34 years old and represents a safe district. That seat is probably his as long as he wants it. He just doesn’t want it anymore.

Other young members who are calling it quits: Paul Tine, Jacqueline Schaffer, Brian Brown. There are probably a couple more to come. Reasons cited for their departures include the grueling schedule, low pay, and (in Rep. Baskerville’s case) the discouraging legislative landscape. Those in Baskerville’s party are probably always going to be discouraged as long as the Republicans in control, but the other problems are fixable.

As Rob Christensen noted in a column several weeks ago, North Carolina is in a unique situation with its General Assembly. Almost every state North Carolina’s size has a full-time legislature. We act like we’re a small state and we’re not.

The solution? Either shorten the legislative session, raise pay for legislators, or establish a full-time legislature. Legislators voting themselves pay raises is never a popular thing to do politically, but the meager $13,951 per year we pay to our representatives keeps all but the independently wealthy shut out. For the average citizen, serving in the legislature is a sacrifice and probably leaves some wondering why they fought so hard to get there. After this session, more than a few have figured out the sacrifice isn’t worth it.

One thing is for certain: the current way we do things is a disservice not only to those who represent us, but to citizens at large. Let’s do something about it so legislators no longer have to make a choice between making ends meet and serving the public.

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