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Downsize the Pa. Legislature: Whack! Whack! Whack!

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Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
 

State House Speaker Sam Smith, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi and Sen. Elder Vogel deserve credit for trying — yet again — to shrink the General Assembly.

But unless public pressure rises dramatically, their bills — like all previous attempts to reverse the bloat inherent in America's second-largest state legislature — will fail.

Paying 253 full-time members who get lavish perks and pensions in addition to salaries of at least $83,802 annually and employing 2,600-plus staffers, the General Assembly costs Pennsylvanians far more than lawmaking should. New proposals from Mr. Smith, R-Punxsutawney, would shrink the House from 203 members to 153, the Senate from 50 to 38.

Mr. Pileggi, R-Delaware County, and Mr. Vogel, R-Beaver County, are co-sponsoring a bill to reduce the total to 151 in both chambers, which Vogel estimates would save taxpayers $115 million.

Smith's proposing separate bills for House and Senate reduction because too many lawmakers are willing to cut only others' seats, not their own: Last year, a House-shrinking bill he pushed through his own chamber died in the Senate over House-added Senate cuts — despite a poll showing 62 percent of Pennsylvania voters favored a smaller House and Senate.

What's needed is for the public to hold more legislators' feet closer than ever to a fire hotter with indignation than any to date — and to do so as long as it takes for the General Assembly's self-protecting career politicians to heed the people's will.

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