The state House of Representatives has approved a pair of bills to reduce the state legislature, although their vote was just the first of many major steps in a process that would eventually end up with Pennsylvania’s voters.
The bills would trim the number of Pennsylvania House seats from 203 to 153, and cut the number of Senate members from 50 to 38.
The votes were 148 to 50 regarding the House, and 150 to 48 on the Senate. Both measures will go on to the Senate, which does not return to session until next month. The constitutional amendments would need to be passed in two sessions of the legislature, and then be approved by voter referendum.
House Speaker Sam Smith stated Tuesday that a smaller legislature would allow state lawmakers to “be more responsive to the needs, to the diverse nature of Pennsylvania and produce a better product at the end of the day.” Bill co-sponsor Brad Roae, from Crawford County, touted the cost-savings of a reduced legislature.
Representative Lee James, from Oil City, cast approval votes for both bills.
Opponents, who included Representatives Kathy Rapp from Warren County, and Representative Mark Longietti from Mercer County, argue the changes would diminish the voices of rural Pennsylvanians. Representative Chris Sainato argued the measures would result in political bosses and the rich picking and choosing our lawmakers, and that the “average person” would not have the opportunity to serve in Harrisburg.