Move to trim Pa. Legislature advances

    Legislation to shrink the number of lawmakers in Pennsylvania’s Legislature has cleared the first of several hurdles.

    Debate went on for more than an hour Tuesday on a proposed constitutional amendment to reduce the House membership from 203 to 153.

    Reducing the size of the nation’s second-largest legislature would result in better laws, said the bill’s sponsor.

    But several opponents said it could diminish the voice of rural Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.The legislation doesn’t single out certain regions, countered Speaker Sam Smith.

    “The impact on any given county would be the same proportion across the state,” said Smith, R-Jefferson. “So it’s not that it would reduce the number of legislators from Philadelphia County any more than it would reduce proportionately the number from elsewhere around the state.”

    Others suggest the legislation would only make legislative leaders and lobbyists stronger.

    “If we really want to do right by the people we represent, we will direct our efforts to reducing the influence of special interest money,” said state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware. “If you pass this bill, you’re increasing the influence of special interest money.”

    A separate measure to cut the size of the Senate from 50 to 38 members also passed.

    Shrinking the Legislature requires a constitutional amendment, so the bills would need to pass in two consecutive legislative sessions and then clear a voter referendum.

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