Government
8:46 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Plan to Slash Number of State Representatives Advances in Harrisburg

A plan to shrink the ranks of state House lawmakers has made it out of a Pennsylvania House committee.

Several lawmakers say shrinking the legislature from 203 to 153 for the sake of cost-cutting and efficiency sets a good example to the rest of state government. Some have expressed concern the reduction would mean larger districts that make lawmakers rely less on shoe leather and more on big donors to win elections, while others say it's a debate they're ready to have.

"It's certainly one of the agenda items that we hope to move," said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-McCandless). He said he hopes to take action on the bill this spring.

It passed in a committee meeting and the House has passed it on a first consideration vote, meaning it needs two more House votes after that, before it can go to the state Senate.

After those steps, there's yet more maneuvering.

Shrinking the number of House districts would require tinkering with the state Constitution. That can only happen if the downsizing measure is approved in two back-to-back legislative sessions and then passes a voter referendum.

House Democrat Steven Santasiero of Bucks County says lawmakers should get going and begin debating the bill, because enacting it would be a lengthy process.

"It would not take effect until after 2020. So there is plenty of time — plenty of time — to not only analyze the effects of the bill, but ultimately for the people of Pennsylvania to adjust to a revised size of the legislature," he said.

House Republican Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), said reducing the legislature by about 25 percent is a good move toward cutting costs, and added that the move would save taxpayers billions of dollars.