Measure to shrink Pa. Legislature takes small step forward

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    A bill that aims to amend Pennsylvania’s Constitution and shrink its state House is making slow, but sure progress. Notices about the proposal have appeared in newspapers around the commonwealth, a requirement that precedes a vote by the House and Senate.

    At 253 members, Pennsylvania has the second largest Legislature in the country, behind New Hampshire. It’s the nation’s largest full-time legislative body.

    But perhaps not for long — the measure working its way through the amendment process would reduce the House to 151 seats. The Senate will remain at its current number of 50.

    Rep. Jerry Knowles, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the amendment would be a much-needed change.

    “No. 1, it will save money in terms of the operation of the House of Representatives,” said Knowles, R-Schuylkill. “But, secondly, it will bring it down to a number where I think it will be easier to build consensus.”

    The plan already passed both the House and Senate earlier this year. But there are several more steps before it gets a shot at ratification, and Knowles said the process’s complexity is by design.

    “I think our forefathers and the people who went before us thought that they did a pretty good job, and that if anything was going to be changed in terms of the Constitution, that it would be a difficult process,” he said.

    Per the Constitution, a notice about the bill has to appear in two newspapers in each county in the state, 90 days before the general election, a step that’s happening now.

    The bill then moves back to the chambers for another vote in the next legislative session. Then there’s another round of newspaper notices, and finally, a statewide vote.

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