Reducing the size of the State House

Published Aug 28, 2013 at 6:15 am (Updated Aug 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm)

Pennsylvania citizens that seek good, open, honest, efficient government would be well advised not to become overly excited as State House Speaker Sam Smith has introduced legislation designed to shrink the size of the body from 203 to 153. Past shenanigans in which he and his colleagues have engaged cause me to question his seriousness, but even if he does wish for his proposal to advance, it is unlikely that it would command a majority of House members’ votes even if it reaches the floor.

The general assembly has anointed itself as a body of supreme beings to whom the people answer rather than vice versa. Despite what the state constitution states and without regard to the intent of the founders of our system of governance, senators and representatives have seized the ability to set their own salaries, benefits, per diem allowances (for which, unlike rank and file state employees, no receipts are required), and pensions. Speaker Smith was one of the conspirators that brought about the infamous 2005 middle of the night pay raise/grab, and he voted to boost his pension and that of his colleagues by a whopping 50% in 2001, a significant factor in having brought about the current pension fund deficit of a staggering $47 billion. Even in Governor Corbett’s pension reform proposal, rank and file workers are asked to give up a greater amount of their pension benefit than the lawmakers that created the crisis. My state representative, John Maher, a certified public accountant and purported Republican, engaged in rare general assembly bipartisanship, joining a majority of greedy Republican and Democratic colleagues in voting for the pay grab and the pension boost. I do not imagine that he will ever boast of this during an election campaign, the only time at which he makes his presence known to his constituents. Members of the general assembly will be loath to reduce their numbers. To do so would be to act in the public interest, a rarity for this bunch. They are confident that they will be re-elected no matter the extent to which the wishes of the public are trampled upon. Will there ever be a time that we surprise them by voting out the many that are greedy and shameless?

Oren Spiegler

Upper St. Clair

Reducing the size of the State House

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