Departing Pennsylvania House speaker once again makes a case for downsizing legislature

     Pennsylvania Rep. Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, has pushed for reducing the number of state lawmakers. He is retiring as speaker of the State House without accomplishing that goal. (AP file photo)

    Pennsylvania Rep. Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, has pushed for reducing the number of state lawmakers. He is retiring as speaker of the State House without accomplishing that goal. (AP file photo)

    Pennsylvania’s retiring state House speaker is reflecting on one of his reform goals that didn’t make it to the finish line this year.

    House speakers are elected by their caucus members, so it was significant that Republican Sam Smith of Jefferson County was willing to propose getting rid of 50 of the chamber’s 203 seats.

    People should take the idea seriously as a way to make the House more efficient, he said.

    “What it would save in money is not going to change the budget world,” Smith said. “It’s real money at the end of the day, but what it would really do is make the House a more efficient entity in terms of how they go about making the decisions collectively.”

    He countered the argument that eliminating seats would make lawmakers less accessible to their constituents.

    “It’s not just a, you know, a reform idea to distract people from what else is going on … I think, in this world of communications, the idea that you need to talk to every constituent is unrealistic,” he said, “Most of them don’t want to talk to you anyways.”

    The measure stalled this year — not in the House, but in the Senate.

    Some lawmakers said it would look bad to cut House seats without cutting seats in the other chamber, and there was less support for reducing the 50-seat Senate.

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

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