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Understanding how elected officials can vote on their own raises | Ask Alex

The state legislature was the one to set the salary of the county supervisors prior to 1970, according to a professor at McGeorge School of Law

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After a vote this week, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will go from being paid about $127,000 a year to about $173,000.

For this week's "Ask Alex" segment on “To The Point with Alex Bell,” we wanted to answer this question from our ABC10 Facebook page.

Q: Why should they be any different than the public?

The “To The Point” team reached out to a professor at McGeorge School of Law to understand how elected officials are able to vote on their own raises.

“Unless there's some higher law that constrains them, they're allowed to vote on their own salary,” said Leslie Gielow Jacobs, professor of law at McGeorge School of Law. “The theory there is that they do it openly. There are laws that make sure that they do it openly. There's media, like you, reporting on it and the people can see what's going on and vote them out if they think that it's the wrong thing to do.”

Jacobs adds this wasn’t always the case.

“With the County Board of Supervisors, before 1970, the California Constitution — which is the highest source of law here in the state — said that the legislature would set the salary of the county supervisors,” said Jacobs. “But then an initiative passed and the decision was made by the people voting this in that, in fact, the choice of the salary should return to the county level, because of an idea of home rule and direct democracy. And so an explicit choice was made that it was better to have the county supervisors be doing it on their own.”

According to Ocgrandjury.org, it was State of California Proposition 12 in 1970 that made the change from the State Legislature setting the salary of the Board of Supervisors. Read the full proposition from 1970 here.

This pay increase is currently slated to take effect June 4. 

Watch: Shasta, Oroville, Folsom reservoirs nearly full | California Water Update

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