Our opinion: Shrinking the legislature

Just because a proposal makes a lot of sense doesn’t mean it will be successful.

In fact, for some ideas in that category, the simple sensibility of the thing dooms it to failure.

We offer for testimony to that postulate the idea of reducing the size of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, the largest state legislature in the nation and the second most expensive.

To quote Sonny Corleone, “Fuggetaboutit!”

Not going to happen.

Why should a chamber with 253 people (the House), each making more than $80,000 a year, plus the sort of benefits that most of us only dream about, vote to reduce their numbers?

For the good of the Commonwealth, you say?

Let us relieve you of that naivete.

The idea has cropped up before, and each time it quietly goes away.

Reducing the size of the House of Representatives by say 50 members would require the redrawing of districts and portend that some incumbents would find themselves running against other incumbents who might even be members of their own party. The very thought is enough to make Republicans and Democrats alike blanch with trepidation.

And yet, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican Sam Smith, has introduced a bill that would do just that. Estimates are that losing 50 seats in the Great Hall could save the state $8 million a year in salaries and bennies alone. The savings would vastly increase if those remaining 203 frugal and greatly relieved members decided to reduce the 2,700-member legislative staff.

Unlike some states which have part-time legislatures where members are compensated for their expenses only – these are called citizen legislatures (a comforting thought, don’t you think) – Pennsylvania’s is a career track for its members. Reducing its size has little more chance than the enactment of term limits, and that has no chance at all.

Nevertheless, good luck, Sam; we’re in there pulling for you.