FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Babette Josephs
Debate on House size undermines purpose of constitutional amendment
HARRISBURG, April 17 – State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Phila., is calling disgraceful the House floor debate and procedural antics regarding the recent consideration of a bill that would reduce the size of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to 153 from 203.
Josephs said Republicans used parliamentary tactics to block consideration of amendments that would have improved the legislature reduction bill and taken the idea of reform a step further, which is what a great many Pennsylvanians want.
"Constituents have told me they want a smaller legislature, but when I question them more closely, they say what they really mean is that the General Assembly should not be so expensive," Josephs said. "There is nothing in this bill that would prevent the legislature from increasing its expenses. I had several amendments to offer that would have mandated a reduction in funding for the General Assembly, in addition to a size reduction, but instead, Republicans relied on parliamentary skullduggery and ruled more than 50 Democratic amendments out of order. This amendment mass extinction stymied reasonable reform that the voters want."
Only one amendment to H.B. 153 was adopted – to reduce the size of the state Senate from 50 to 38 members. It was filed by a Republican member of the House.
"I voted no on the bill, because nothing in H.B. 153 says that legislators are going to do more with less. Under this bill, if you're a representative and your district is enlarged, your postage and car allowance, your staff complement, and your pension might all go up. Nothing in this legislation stops that. There's no savings there. I think we need a more gradual approach, so we can evaluate whether the reduction is working and whether it does indeed produce an economical body," she said.
Josephs had filed several amendments, including:
· Calling for a more gradual approach to the reduction so that the General Assembly's costs could be thoroughly reviewed as the body's size was reduced.
· Implementing a budget reduction to correspond with the smaller General Assembly. For example, based on the 2011-12 figures for the House, a 20 percent reduction would save $35.9 million and a 25 percent reduction would save $44.8 million.
"All amendments deserved to be considered on their merits, but it was clear that Republicans are not after real reform; they are afraid to let that happen."