A part-time legislature could lead to more efficient government for our state.
A very important question is on the November 8 ballot – “Should the size of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives be reduced?” If approved, the proposed amendment to our state constitution will decrease the size of the PA House from 203 districts to 151 districts. The size of the PA Senate would remain at 50. I will let you surmise the politics that ensured that the size of the Senate would not change.To change the size of the legislature requires an amendment to the state constitution and to amend our state constitution, legislation must pass both chambers of the PA House and Senate in two successive sessions. Appropriate notice is then provided to citizens and the amendment will appear on the ballot for citizens to ultimately decide.
Needless to say, citizens can find pros and cons of reducing the size of a state legislature. A few of the more pertinent variables to consider are: size, cost, accountability and policy outcomes.
When this legislation was being debated, many legislators advocated for an amendment to include redistricting reform. Our current system is built on gerrymandered districts and without redistricting reform we would continue to draw districts based on gerrymandering. All such amendments were defeated.
For many years, even before being elected to the State House in 2010, I was a proponent of a part-time legislature.
Over the past six years as I evaluate the caliber of the legislation being passed (and quite frankly puzzle over important legislation that languishes) my thoughts for a part-time legislature have been reinforced. A constitutional amendment to change from a full-time to a part-time legislature merits discussion.
There are very interesting best practices that other states follow that Pennsylvania should consider. The National Conference of State Legislatures (www.NCSL.org) includes many of these practices including limiting the amount of bills each legislator can introduce. There are only four full-time legislatures in the country.
In PA, at the end of the 2013- 2014 legislative session, 2519 House bills and 1479 Senate bills were introduced and only 337 total were signed into law.
As of September 16th, for the current session 2015-2016 (which ends on November 30th), 2285 House bills and 1321 Senate bills were introduced and only 244 total have been signed into law.
After 240 years, how many new laws are needed each year?
For example, New Hampshire has the largest state house with 400 members and operates part time. Those citizen legislators receive a $100 annual stipend and meaningful work gets done in the state of New Hampshire.
I am a charter member of the three year old Government Reform Caucus as I believe we need to change much of the infrastructure as to how our state legislative body operates.
I urge citizens to think carefully about this and all ballot issues. As always, the devil is in the details and we will discuss these details at my September 30th and October 27th Town Hall meetings. For more info on this issue or upcoming Town Hall meetings, visit www.pahouse.com/delissio or call my Roxborough office at (215) 482-8726.