Monday, February 21, 2011

Proposal to Cut PA House by Nearly 25%

Pennsylvania House Speaker Sam Smith is drafting a bill to shrink the size of his chamber.

Smith’s bill would reduce the state House by 50 seats, to 153 members.

Political scientist Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College says it’s “unusual” for a legislative leader to back this sort of reform bill, adding Smith’s support suggests the measure has a good chance of passing the House.

"Now the Senate, in a sense, doesn’t have a horse in the race, because it only talks about reducing the size of the House. But we’ll still have to see if the Senate is willing to take it up. And then it has to pass two sessions and go directly to the voters."

The voter approval via a ballot question is necessary because changing the size of the legislature requires an amendment to the state constitution.

Madonna says polls have shown consistent voter support for a smaller House or Senate.

Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the country.

Smith’s bill is still in the early stages of drafting, so it’s not clear what the time frame for reducing seats would be.

Opponents of a reduction argue rural voters would suffer, since their districts would become larger and more spread out, if seats are eliminated.

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