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Would Pennsylvanians Be Better Served by Fewer Politicians?

PHOTO: Fewer politicians in PA? The Pennsylvania House has passed a measure that could reduce the size of the State Legislature by 25 percent. Photo credit: Wikipedia.org.
PHOTO: Fewer politicians in PA? The Pennsylvania House has passed a measure that could reduce the size of the State Legislature by 25 percent. Photo credit: Wikipedia.org.
December 20, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Legislature could be three-quarters the size it is now in 10 years, if two bills passed in Harrisburg by the House this week become law. House Bill 1234 would reduce the House from 203 members to 153. And House Bill 1716 proposes to cut 12 positions from the current 50 in the state Senate.

Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Dist. 39) said the change would allow those elected to office to have greater impact on behalf of their constituents.

"The smaller the number, the more effective we could be as a legislature - more accountable. There'll be more people that we represent, slightly more, but we'll have more influence in here, as opposed to just being one in a large number of legislators," Saccone explained.

Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Dist. 11) said fewer politicians in Harrisburg could translate to better opportunities for working across the aisle.

"I think sometimes when we have so many people, we get divided into factions, and some of those factions can be formidable in trying to find compromise," Schwank said.

Cost has been mentioned as one factor in this debate. It's estimated that reducing the size of the Legislature could result in annual savings to the state of more than $20 million.

Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the country. Opponents call the change unnecessary and fear it may make it harder for people who live in rural parts of the state to have access to their lawmakers. Ultimately, a reduction would take close to a decade to implement. It would require both legislative and voter approval, followed by districts being redrawn. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration when it reconvenes next month.

More information about House Bill 1234 is at http://bit.ly/1i4YhE5; House Bill 1716 is at http://bit.ly/JI6gZb.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA