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This is how you play House in Harrisburg

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Thursday, March 14, 2013, 11:27 a.m.

NEWS ITEM: House Speaker Sam Smith is preparing to reintroduce a bill that would cut the size of the state Legislature from 253 members to 203 by eliminating 50 House seats. The House last year approved similar legislation proposed by the Punxsutawney Republican, but the measure died in the Senate.

From the House chamber:

Smith: “OK, listen up, everyone. Could I have your attention, please? We've received some rare favorable coverage for this idea about dramatically downsizing the House, and people actually seem to think we're serious about operating more efficiently. Mission accomplished. It's time to start discussing how we ensure that this never, ever happens. Yes, Representative O'Neill? You have the floor.”

Rep. Bernard O'Neill, R-Bucks County: “Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to say that the method used to guarantee this proposal's destruction last year — amending the bill to also reduce the number of Senate seats from 50 to 38 — was brilliant. We looked progressive when we approved the bill, all the while knowing the Senate never would go for cutting its membership so significantly based on our legislation. Sheer genius.”

Smith: “Thanks, Bernie.”

O'Neill: “That being said, Mr. Speaker, I don't want to be the one to amend the bill again. I was really lucky that no one noticed I did it last year, and I don't want to tempt fate by doing it twice in a row. Someone is bound to go back and trace the change this time.”

Smith: “I understand, Bernie. This should be a bipartisan effort anyway. Minority Leader Dermody, would one of your members be willing to amend my bill? What about Bill DeWeese?”

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont: “Uh, no, Mr. Speaker. He's in prison.”

Smith: “Mike Veon?”

(Awkward pause. House parliamentarian whispers in Smith's ear.)

Smith: “Really? I had no idea. Mr. Dermody, is there a member of your delegation who isn't incarcerated?”

Dermody: “No current member is in jail, Mr. Speaker.”

Smith: “Can you suggest someone who might be willing to amend the bill?”

Dermody: “Hmmmm ... Paul Costa, maybe. He'd probably be so grateful that someone is paying attention to him that he'd do it.”

Smith: “Paul Costa?”

Dermody: “The guy from Wilkins.”

Smith: “I'm sorry, I don't know who he is.”

Dermody: “That's probably because he's only been here 13-plus years. Costa is the guy who introduced that resolution a few weeks ago lauding the National Junior Hockey Team for winning the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship. He was so proud of that resolution. He considered it ground-breaking legislation.”

Smith: “Oh — him. Yes, he'll do nicely. Probably won't even realize what he's doing.”

Dermody: “I'll see if I can track him down. He's usually in the back alley grabbing a smoke.”

Smith: “Thank you, Mr. Dermody. While we finalize putting this poison pill into the legislation, does anyone want to discuss raising our per diems?”

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or

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