Don’t hold your breath on Legislature shrinking

Don’t hold your breath on Legislature shrinking

August 24, 2013

Pennsylvania citizens seeking good, open, honest, efficient government would be well advised not to become overly excited as state Speaker of the House Sam Smith has introduced legislation designed to shrink the size of the body from 203 to 153 representatives. Past shenanigans in which he and his colleagues have engaged cause me to question his seriousness. But even if he does wish for his proposal to advance, it is unlikely that it would command a majority of votes from House members even if it reaches the floor.

The General Assembly has anointed itself as a body of supreme beings to whom the people answer rather than vice versa. Despite what the state Constitution says and without regard to the intent of the founders of our system of governance, state senators and representatives have seized the ability to set their own salaries, benefits, per diem allowances (for which, unlike rank and file state employees, no receipts are required), and pensions. Speaker Smith was one of the conspirators who brought about the infamous 2005 middle of the night pay raise/grab, and he voted to boost his pension and that of his colleagues by a whopping 50 percent in 2001, a significant factor in having brought about the current pension fund deficit of a staggering $47 billion for which we beleaguered taxpayers will be paying for decades. Even in Gov. Tom Corbett’s pension reform proposal, rank and file workers are asked to give up a greater amount of their pension benefit than the lawmakers that created the crisis.

Members of the General Assembly will certainly be loath to reduce their numbers. To do so would be to act in the public interest, a rarity for this bunch. They are confident that they will be re-elected no matter the extent to which the wishes of the public are trampled upon. Will there ever be a time that we surprise them by voting out the many who are greedy and shameless?

Oren Spiegler

Upper St. Clair


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