Times editorial: Bring down the House

Don’t laugh, gentle voters, but here’s a simple ques­tion: Are you get­ting your money’s worth from your friendly neigh­bor­hood state le­gis­lat­or? If you’re like most folks, the an­swer’s prob­ably a big, em­phat­ic “NO!”

As sum­mer winds down, the speak­er of the Pennsylvania House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives, Sam Smith, has in­tro­duced a bill aimed at re­du­cing the size of the House by 25 per­cent — to 153 mem­bers from 203.

The meas­ure makes abund­ant sense, but it faces ma­jor hurdles. Be­cause it would re­quire an amend­ment to the state Con­sti­tu­tion, it would have to be passed by both the House and the Sen­ate in two con­sec­ut­ive ses­sions and then ap­proved by voters in a ref­er­en­dum. The second part is easy; the first part, not so much.

Don’t ex­pect pub­lic “ser­vants,” es­pe­cially those en­trenched ones who’ve been wholly sup­por­ted by the tax­pay­ers for dec­ades, to jump on the downs­ize band­wag­on. The over­sized, over­paid, un­der­worked and un­der­u­til­ized le­gis­lat­ive body loves its status quo. House mem­bers are about as mo­tiv­ated to pass sig­ni­fic­ant re­form as Phil­adelphia City Coun­cil mem­bers are.

In the last cen­tury or so, the only time mem­bers of the Pennsylvania Le­gis­lature took swift ac­tion was in Ju­ly 2005, when they gave them­selves hefty (and il­leg­al) pay raises in the middle of the night.

Full-time pay for part-time work should end, but that will only hap­pen if you the people tell your elec­ted of­fi­cials to do it. Then — and here’s the cru­cial part of the equa­tion — when they don’t do it, you kick their polit­ic­al butts out of of­fice. ••

You can reach at fgusoff@bsmphilly.com.

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