The time has come for these reforms

“…Of the people, by the people, for the people.” That is how our government was intended to run, and it is the only way we will ever succeed.

Since first being elected as a public official, I vowed to do my part to restore public confidence and trust in government. That is a promise to myself and to my community that I have never taken lightly.

I believe in government that serves people, not the special interests of the powerful, which is why I led efforts to end late-night votes in Harrisburg, prohibit “lame duck” sessions, hold state officials accountable for their actions and make changes to the state’s Right-to-Know Law to ensure greater access to government records. I also pushed to require all House and committee votes be placed online, along with government budgets, expense reports and employee salaries.

But, we can’t stop there. Our effort to improve government and ensure transparency must be ongoing. It takes honest dialogue and diverse input, both of which I received from my constituents in recent months. Over the course of recent town halls, office meetings and one-on-one conversations, the voices of our community on these issues have grown from a whisper to a roar. I’ve heard you.

That is why I am co-sponsoring and advocating for the following reforms:

¯Redistricting Reform — This proposal would establish a truly independent commission to draw district boundaries. The commission would be selected in a similar fashion as a jury is selected: randomly from all eligible voters. The boundaries adopted under this new process would be required to meet neutral criteria to provide protection for an individual against dilution of his or her vote.

¯Committee Chair Term Limits — This proposal would limit a state representative’s service as committee chair of a particular committee to three legislative sessions. Few may realize the power that a committee chair has over the legislative process in Harrisburg, but it is significant. While the use of seniority has its place in the House of Representatives, it should not be used to restrict the flow of new ideas for decades.

¯Independent Primary Voters — This proposal would allow independent or non-affiliated voters to participate in Pennsylvania’s primary process. With nearly 750,000 of our state’s voters now registered as independent or non-affiliated, the time has come to allow them to cast a vote in a primary election. Too many races, especially local races, find finality in the spring election and these voters should not be left out.

I have always tried to take a stand for what I believe is right, not what was popular or self-serving, and will stand for these needed reforms, because it is the right thing to do.

These reforms are supported by many Pennsylvanians. Their time has come. Most importantly, these reforms return power back to the people, where it belongs.

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State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, serves the 171st Legislative District, which includes Union, Brown, Decatur and Armagh townships in Mifflin County.

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