State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

House passes long-shot plans to shrink General Assembly

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | May 5, 2015 9:28 PM
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Photo by Lindsay Lazarski/Keystone Crossroads


State House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to shrink their 203-seat chamber down to 151 posts. Members also passed a plan to take the Senate from 50 to 37 seats.

Similar attempts to shed some seats in the country's largest state legislature haven't been successful for the past few years.

Proponents of the changes say the House, in particular, is too big to do its job efficiently.

"Most people aren't even listening right now," said Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny) during floor debate. He was greeted with jeers. "When you bring your constituents up here, the first thing they notice is the chaos, right?"

Other supporters say having fewer legislators around could cut costs and enable the chamber to more nimbly address policy issues.

But opponents fear the big shrink would make legislative leaders and lobbyists more powerful, while weakening the voices of voters back home.

"Although this bill might have the appearance of good government, I think the reality is that it makes government less responsive to the people we represent," said Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware).

The vote to cut House seats followed more than two hours of debate. The measure passed 139-56.

There was no debate on a separate proposal to reduce the size of the Senate, taking it from 50 to 37 seats. That measure was approved 146-49.

Both measures would amend the state constitution, a lengthy process that requires proposals to pass both chambers in two consecutive sessions and then clear a voter referendum.

Edit: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the House proposal would trim the chamber to include just 153 seats. The proposal would set the number of House seats at 151.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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