Wednesday, November 25, 2015

To cut costs, Pa. lawmaker reviving efforts to trim Legislature


A recent Pew analysis probably made Pennsylvania taxpayers a little queasy.

That’s because it found the Keystone State pays its lawmakers the second-highest salary in the nation, behind just California and one spot ahead of New York. Legislators draw a base salary of $84,012 and can collect a per diem of $157 on session days.

While those salaries might not change anytime soon, there is hope for some savings. State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, wants to resurrect legislation that would trim the number of state lawmakers.

The House late last year passed legislation sponsored by House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, to reduce the General Assembly’s ranks by about 25 percent, but it seemingly fell into hibernation when it reached the Senate.

Smucker said Thursday it’s time for revive the effort to cut one of the most expensive legislatures in the country. The Senate State Government Committee, which Smucker chairs, will consider proposals to reduce the number of lawmakers, he said.

“The House of Representatives gave this issue a good start by assembling a reasonable bill, debating it at length and approving it. We should not let this chance for historic change slip away,” Smucker said in a statement. “There is sufficient time left in this legislative session to do this, there certainly is wide public support for it and there seems to be the legislative will to move forward.”

The clock is ticking.

Reducing the size of the Legislature would require that an amendment to the state constitution be approved by lawmakers and then by voters in a public referendum. Any proposed change would have to be advertised 90 days before the Nov. 4 General Election, meaning lawmakers have until early August to act.  There are 18 scheduled session days in June before lawmakers break for the summer.

Even if the two chambers agree this year, the proposal would still have to be approved by both bodies in the next legislative session and then again by voters.

There are already different opinions on how many lawmakers should go in the state Senate. While Smith’s legislation would cut the 50-person chamber by a dozen members, Smucker said his committee would consider an amendment to the legislation that would reduce the state Senate by five members.

Smith’s legislation would cut the state House from 203 to 153 members.

This is the second straight session the speaker has put forth the idea, though his previous effort dissolved in the state Senate after clearing the House.

Andrew Staub is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at  Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

The Pennsylvania Independent is a public interest journalism project dedicated to promoting open, transparent, and accountable state government by reporting on the activities of agencies, bureaucracies, and politicians in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a libertarian nonprofit organization

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