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Editorial: Bring down the House

While so many Pennsylvanians continue to spend an absurdly inordinate amount of time lionizing and mourning a man who was a great coach but who was not so great at calling police, Republicans in the state capital are spending time on an issue that could have a far greater impact on the lives of most denizens of the Keystone State than Joe Paterno ever had.

The House State Government Committee on Tuesday OKed and sent to the full House of Representatives a measure that would eliminate a quarter of its seats. Pennsylvania’s House has 203 seats, and its members, who work part-time, earn $80,000 a year plus a medley of fringe benefits that should make Philadelphia City Council’s underworked members quite jealous.

The Pennsylvania House is the second-largest lower chamber of the nation’s legislatures and, like much of government, it desperately needs to go on a diet. Doing away with 50 seats would not impede the bloated legislature’s ability to adequately represent the citizens.

The measure still has a way to go, however. In addition to resistance from Harrisburg’s plethora of entrenched politicians, including Northeast Philly state Rep. Mark Cohen, who has been in office since Richard Nixon was president, the bill would require amending the state Constitution and therefore would have to be approved by two consecutive legislative sessions and then get a thumbs-up from voters in a statewide referendum. No easy task, but then again, all good legislation requires work.

If you’re not sure if you support the downsizing effort, ask yourself this: What has your friendly neighborhood state representative done for you lately? ••

Send letters to: pronews@bsmphilly.com

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