Tuesday, June 12, 2007

PA House reform panel no-go on smaller size

Hot button issue should be further studied. Issuespa should have some good reports. While the panel "nixed" the proposal to reduce the size of the legislature, it did come out with a recommendation to decrease the budget for the legislature. It proposed a measure calling for a 10-percent in cut in the Legislature's $316 million budget...

That's a drop in the bucket, but now the incumbents need to hear from the public watchdogs to take further action on cutting the expense of their own operations.

Reducing the size of the legislature itself isn't necessarily the only answer.

House panel nixes smaller legislature
By Brad Bumsted
Monday, June 11, 2007

HARRISBURG -- A special House panel today shot down a proposal to reduce the size of Pennsylvania's 253-member General Assembly, one of the largest and most costly legislatures in the nation.
The Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform is voting on reform proposals in what could be its final session. The panel makes recommendations to the full House.

The panel returns to session on Tuesday to consider term limits and strengthening the state's open records law. Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery County, and Rep. David Steil, R-Bucks, the co-chairmen of the panel, declined to speculate on the outcome of those issues.

But based on discussions at reform commission meetings there appears to be little support for limiting lawmakers' terms.

The proposal for a smaller legislature -- which drew only six favorable votes on the 24-member commission -- is a symbolic issue for some reformers. Members of the commission said they believed the public really wanted to see the Legislature spend less on itself.

Knowing it faced a steep hurdle on the commission -- where a three-fourths vote is required separately among Republicans and Democrats instead of a simple majority vote -- lawmakers proposed a measure calling for a 10-percent in cut in the Legislature's $316 million budget.

The commission today voted to "advance" the proposed budget cut, but defeated language calling for the spending reduction to be "approved." Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre County, termed that "verbal gymnastics."

The change from approved to advanced "watered down" the recommendation, said Rep. Tom Tangretti, D-Greensburg, another reform panel member.

"I am more confused now that we have advanced, rather than approved, it," Tangretti said.

But it will appear to some constituents that the reform commission did give the OK to cutting legislative spending.

The vote to approve the spending cut garnered 12 yes votes among Republicans. Among Democrats on the panel the final tally was 7-5 against, so it failed to gain the required "super majority" on the Democratic side.


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