Pa. lawmakers consider paring General Assembly

    A Pennsylvania House panel is beginning to consider a number of proposals to reduce the size of the Legislature–and, in some bills, increase the length of legislators’ terms.

    Republican Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, chairman of the House State Government Committee, says the constitutional allotment of 50 senators and 203 representatives doesn’t make sense when travel and working online make it easier for more far-flung legislators to do their jobs.

    And even after technical difficulties belabored the testimony of at least one far-flung representative who joined the meeting via Skype, Metcalfe said he’s inclined to push for fewer lawmakers.

    “I think that the points that were made, is we don’t travel on horseback any longer, you know we have technology,” Metcalfe said. “We still have the ability to bring testimony in.”

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    Beverly Cigler, a professor of public policy and administration at Penn State Harrisburg, said most people like to hear about all the potential benefits that come with cutting legislative seats–money saved, a more manageable Legislature, and more bills passed.

    “But there’s no data whatsoever that support that and if you really like the value of representative democracy, increasing the number of people in a district takes away from representative democracy,” she said.

    During the hearing, other arguments against slimming the General Assembly’s roster came from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s counsel, representing rural residents he says are happy with their level of representation.

    Reducing the Legislature requires a constitutional amendment–meaning a bill would have to be passed in the House and Senate, and then be approved by voters.

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