Saturday, July 26, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Today, Harrisburg lawmakers consider reducing the number of Harrisburg lawmakers

Easy to be cynical about this one: The state House Government Committee will hold a hearing today about a proposal to reduce the size of the state House from 203 to 153. This would be a heavy lift: Besides the fact that members of the House would have to vote in favor of eliminating positions some of them presently hold, the proposal from Speaker Sam Smith would be a constitutional amendment, which means it would have to be approved by two straight legislative sessions and pass a voter referendum.

Today, Harrisburg lawmakers consider reducing the number of Harrisburg lawmakers

Easy to be cynical about this one: The state House Government Committee will hold a hearing today about a proposal to reduce the size of the state House from 203 to 153. This would be a heavy lift: Besides the fact that members of the House would have to vote in favor of eliminating positions some of them presently hold, the proposal from Speaker Sam Smith would be a constitutional amendment, which means it would have to be approved by two straight legislative sessions and pass a voter referendum.

Reducing the size of the legislature has been discussed for years, but capitol watchers believe Smith's proposal has a realistic chance of passage because of his leadership position. And it's not like legislators would be firing themselves immediately. The seats wouldn't be slashed until after redistricting in 2020.

Gov. Corbett said yesterday he believes voters would approve it. John Baer says he likes the idea:

I've long argued for a smaller legislature. We have the largest full-time General Assembly in the nation and we're the sixth largest state. By any measure, the $300 million-plus cost to taxpayers to maintain this monster is wasted resources that could be used for needed infrastructure repairs and more.

It's a fair point. Legislative staff is almost certainly too big. The one thing we'd caution against -- and we're not saying Baer's doing this, we've just seen it elsewhere -- is calling for a smaller legislature because you're unhappy with the work being done by lawmakers. It's tempting, because it feels like you're throwing out some bums. But the solution to bad lawmakers is to elect better lawmakers. Fewer lawmakers is only the solution if your problem is definitely that you have too many. We don't see any reason to think that assigning each lawmaker more constituents will yield better policy.

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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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