Home Kids Overview of the 27th Amendment – Simplified and Explained

Overview of the 27th Amendment – Simplified and Explained

27th Amendment

The 27th Amendment: Congressional Pay and State Legal Dynamics

The 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1992, exemplifies the principles of accountability and fairness in government by addressing the issue of congressional pay raises. As we navigate the intricate legal landscapes of all 50 states, we explore the profound connection between the 27th Amendment and state laws, uncovering how this amendment shapes the dynamics of congressional compensation.

Curbing Congressional Compensation

The 27th Amendment emerged from the principles of fiscal responsibility and transparency in government. It aims to ensure that members of Congress cannot unilaterally raise their own pay. By addressing the sensitive issue of congressional compensation, the amendment underscores the importance of government accountability to its constituents.

State Legislative Involvement

The 27th Amendment’s connection to state laws is evident in its ratification process, which required approval from state legislatures. Each state’s decision to ratify the amendment contributes to the collective movement toward holding elected officials accountable for their compensation decisions.

Impact on State Laws

While the 27th Amendment directly pertains to congressional pay, its influence on state laws extends to issues related to public sector compensation. States often mirror federal principles in their own compensation practices, recognizing the importance of fiscal responsibility and public trust in the administration of taxpayer funds.

Balanced Budget Considerations

The amendment’s impact on state laws can be seen in the broader context of balanced budget considerations. As states grapple with budgetary constraints and public demands for responsible fiscal management, the principles underlying the 27th Amendment guide discussions about compensation practices and accountability.

Contemporary Relevance

In an era marked by concerns about government spending and the role of elected officials, the 27th Amendment remains relevant. Discussions about congressional compensation, public sector salary structures, and the ethical obligations of elected officials are informed by the principles enshrined in the amendment.

Ensuring Transparency and Accountability

The 27th Amendment underscores the importance of transparency and accountability in government operations. Its connection to state laws highlights the broader commitment to responsible governance and fiscal management, not only at the federal level but also within individual states.

Upholding Public Trust

The 27th Amendment stands as a testament to the United States’ commitment to accountability and responsible government. Its connection to state laws underscores the importance of aligning compensation practices with the principles of fiscal responsibility and transparency. As we navigate the intricate legal landscapes of all 50 states, we recognize that the 27th Amendment’s impact reverberates through history, shaping the expectations placed on elected officials and contributing to the public’s trust in government operations.

The 27th amendment is unique in that it took nearly 200 years since it was proposed to actually be ratified by the states. The 27th amendment deals with pay raise or decreases for members of Congress.

Changes to Congressional pay must take effect after the next term of office for the representatives. This means that another election would have had to occur before the pay raises can take effect.

The fact that Congress has the power to set its salary was something that worried the original authors of the amendment that would become the 27th amendment in 1992. Many states too, during the debates over ratifying the Constitution, expressed concern over congressional pay. During the first round of ratification, only six states, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Vermont, and Virginia ratified the amendment. Other states would ratify this amendment in bursts, with the digest drive toward ratification occurring the in late ‘80s to early 90s.

You may wonder why an amendment could be ratified almost 200 years after its proposal. In the Supreme Court case of Coleman v. Miller, the court ruled that if the amendment had an unspecified date, then the state legislatures could approve the amendment at any time.

You may remember that some amendments, such as the 21st amendment repealing Prohibition specified a frame of seven years that would render the amendment “inoperative.” The amendment that would become the 27th amendment did not have such a provision, which allowed the final states, Missouri, Michigan, New Jersey, and Illinois to all ratify the amendment in May of 1992 and force its ratification over the objections of some elected officials.

Only 38 states were required to ratify the amendment, but Kentucky found out that it had ratified the amendment decades earlier and the few remaining states all ratified the amendment in quick succession before the Archivist of the United States certified the amendment. Congress would then pass a resolution agreeing the amendment was valid, ending the challenges to it.

What is the text of the 27th Amendment?

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
(No law that would pay representative more or less in salary or other income will be allowed to take effect until after there has been another election)

What is a COLA?

A cost of living adjustment (COLA) allows salaries to rise to keep pace with inflation. Inflation is when prices go up because the value of money has gone down. This allows for instant increases in salary. The 27th amendment was found not to have control over COLA and the Supreme Court refused to hear any case about the right of Congress to collect COLA on their salaries.