Pa. House backs plan to trim size of Legislature

    Lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House have approved a bill that could eventually eliminate 50 seats in their own chamber and 12 seats in the state Senate.

    The measure, which passed by a vote of 140 to 49, now goes to the Senate.

    Both Democrats and Republicans voiced opposition to the proposal in a floor debate that stretched on for three days.

    They say cutting the number of House lawmakers from 203 to 153 will mean constituents have a harder time getting a hold of their representatives.

    Others say reducing the number of lawmakers won’t save the state as much money as cutting staff could.

    Still others worry that shrinking the Legislature would concentrate power in the hands of the House leaders.

    Speaker Sam Smith, the bill’s sponsor, says that wouldn’t happen.

    “While it may be counterintuitive, I can tell you that as a member of leadership that it will work just the opposite,” said Smith, R-Jefferson. “The larger the body, the easier it is to carve out and divide.”

    The debate to eliminate legislative seats has gurgled along for years.

    The bill itself is a proposed constitutional amendment.

    It would require some extra elbow grease from the Legislature for passage — meaning it would have to clear both chambers twice, and then it would have to pass a voter referendum.

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