Bill To Cut 50 Seats In Pa. House Nears 1st Vote

Associated Press

The speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives said Friday that his bill to cut 50 seats from the chamber will be debated next week, a significant first step in the lengthy process of amending the state constitution.

Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, said his main objective is to improve communications and deliberations in the 203-member House.

“I think that members will have a better opportunity to understand — not necessarily agree with — but understand the other member’s perspective,” Smith said.

He said cutting the chamber to 153 members would make it more efficient and give individuals a greater ability to influence decisions. It also may provide cost-savings.

The bill in its current form would not change the state Senate, which has 50 seats.

Critics have said it could increase the influence by campaign donors and lessen contact with constituents.

Smith said he was sympathetic to the argument that it would make rural districts even larger in size, possibly reducing the voice of rural Pennsylvanians.

“I used to subscribe to that,” he said. “My standard line is, ‘There’s nothing magical about 203 and 50.’”

Amending the state constitution requires passage by the Legislature in two consecutive two-year sessions and approval by the state’s voters.

The size of the General Assembly has changed repeatedly over its long history, with the current complement established by the 1968 Constitutional Convention.

House members currently represent an average of 63,000 people. That would expand to about 80,000 under Smith’s proposal.

Smith said his bill could get a final House vote on Wednesday. The proposal has 76 co-sponsors.

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