Penn State prof says staff, not Legislature is too large

Republican leaders in Harrisburg are considering reducing the size of the Pennsylvania Legislature.

But Beverly Cigler, a Penn State professor of public policy, told a legislative committee recently the Capitol is bloated with partisan staff, not lawmakers.

Cigler has studied the size and function of legislatures around the country. She said while it’s true Pennsylvania has a lot of lawmakers, it’s a big state.

Every House member in the commonwealth represents about 65,000 constituents. In only 17 states do legislators represent more.

Cigler said cutting the number of representatives would make districts larger and democracy less representative.

“We certainly wouldn’t want to be like California, where each district is 465,000 plus,” Cigler said.

But she agrees that major reform is needed in Pennsylvania..

“We are the most costly legislature in the country after California, and that’s not because of the number of legislators,” she said. “It’s because of the staff.”

Cigler said millions are spent on separate administrative and research staffs for the Democratic and Republican caucuses of the state House and Senate.

In most states, she said, research is centralized, nonpartisan and available to the public. She urged lawmakers to do away with public funding for partisan legislative caucuses and create a single nonpartisan research staff to serve all lawmakers.

That would be much easier than reducing the size of the Legislature, she argued, which would require an amendment to the state constitution. And, she said, it would save a bundle and better serve the public.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal