Pa. House was just bluffing when it comes to reducing its own size

For a while, there was a basis for cautious optimism that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was serious about reducing the size of its membership.

During the 2015-16 legislative session, the House voted to trim its size, and the lower chamber seemed poised for the required second approval this session so the issue could be included on November’s ballots.

This past Monday, state residents learned that they had been misled big-time regarding the issue — that the commonwealth’s bloated Legislature will remain bloated for the foreseeable future.

No one is saying what the annual cost to the taxpayers will be, although it’s time for someone to speak up.

Regardless, the issue is one that deserves discussion on the campaign trail during this legislative and gubernatorial election year.

The plan that had seemed headed for November’s ballots would have reduced the membership of the House to 151 members from 203, a reduction that, even without any specific numbers available, would have guaranteed significant savings.

The Senate hadn’t given approval last session to a plan that would reduce it to 38 members from 50, so getting the upper chamber reduction question on the fall ballots this year wasn’t possible, although it too should have been a 2018 ballot question.

Pennsylvania’s legislative branch is the largest in the country; it’s size alone dictates inefficiency and general unproductiveness — at a huge financial cost.

For anyone not yet up to speed on how the Keystone State populace was slapped with deception, the one stipulation regarding the second House vote was that no language in the bill approved initially be changed for the second vote.

This past Monday, the House exposed the fact that it wasn’t really serious when it voted the first time, by opting to amend the bill that it initially had approved — injecting into that measure the Senate membership reduction, despite knowing this year’s decision by the voters would be derailed.

The process of getting the House proposal to the voters will have to be restarted, allowing both the House and Senate to play games with the issue for another three years or more — while the wasted money continues to add up.

Supporters of this past Monday’s amendment argued that both chambers should have their size reduced at the same time, and that argument isn’t unreasonable.

However, if the House had demonstrated some backbone this past Monday and given second approval to the originally approved bill, it’s to be presumed that pressure on the Senate would have mounted to follow the House’s lead, rather than continue to sidestep the issue.

Now, lawmakers in both houses seem to be hoping that the issue, having been delayed, will ultimately die.

Again, state taxpayers are poised to be the losers, as business-as-usual continues in the legislative, partisan quicksand that this state’s General Assembly continually demonstrates itself to be.

Pennsylvania government should be better than that.

The lawmakers who were part of what occurred on this past Monday need to ponder how they’ll face the voters this election year.

They need to prove to them that they’re really working on behalf of taxpayers’ and the state’s financial interests — when they’re continuing to allow millions of dollars to be flushed down the toilet of bad decision making.

–Altoona Mirror

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