Friday, August 28, 2015

Reducing size of state legislature: Fine. Other Harrisburg reforms: Better.

Pa. ranks 6th among states in population size but second in legislature size. But there is some democratic downside to increasing the number of constituents each elected official represents, and there's less downside to some other reforms needed in Harrisburg.

Reducing size of state legislature: Fine. Other Harrisburg reforms: Better.

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A bill to shrink the size of the state legislature passed out of a state House committee yesterday -- a noteworthy development in that it signals some willingness by some in Harrisburg to reconsider the entrenched norms of our oversized, over-priced legislature does business (unless, as Eric Epstein of Rock the Capitol suggested to the Inquirer, it's just political theater). This is particularly welcome in light of the fact that there's broad public support for this type of reform.

We have no big problem with a modest reduction in the number of elected officials in Pennsylvania. This bill would take us from 253 to 203, and according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Pa. ranks 6th among states in population size but second in legislature size. But there is some democratic downside to increasing the number of constituents each elected official represents, and there's less downside to some other reforms needed in Harrisburg, such as ending taxpayer-funded partisan political caucuses and introducing campaign finance limits. How about those?

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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