Legislative redistricting just occurred and it's a big joke. Really. At least in Carbon County, there was more harm than good.
Theoretically, the redistricting must happen every 10 years so that every state lawmaker represents approximately the same number of people. Ten years ago it was 49,821 residents. This year it is approximately 62,000 residents.
What happened this year is that because Carbon County's census increased to 65,249 people, about 3,000 residents had to be moved to another legislative district. The redistricting panel - three of the members are from Allegheny County and two are from Delaware County - felt approximate isn't close enough to keep Carbon intact.
The "brains" who do the redistricting felt that Summit Hill, which has a population of 3,034 residents, would be booted out of the 122nd Legislative District (which, incidentally, always had included all of Carbon County) to the 124th Legislative District, which includes part of Schuylkill and Berks Counties.
One single town in a county is moved to another legislative district. Of Carbon County's 23 municipalities, 22 will be serviced by one state representative while the other, Summit Hill, will have a separate legislator.
And you wonder why people hate politics?
Here's a suggestion the next time redistricting occurs. Why not decrease the number of legislative districts?
Pennsylvania presently has 203 state legislators who make about $82,000 per year. Do they really need 202 legislative districts?
In 1995, just 16 years ago, lawmakers in the keystone state were making $47,000 per year. Their pay has risen 74.5 percent in that span.
On a comparative note, New York has only 149 legislative districts, Texas has 150 legislative districts, and California has 90 legislative districts - and all have a bigger population than Pennsylvania.
Texas legislators get paid just $7,200 per year and a daily stipend of $139 per day. In Florida, the salary to state lawmakers is $30,996.
Add the perks like hefty pension plans, health benefits, etc., a lot of taxpayer money could be saved by redistricting from 203 legislative districts to say 115. It would literally be a savings of millions of dollars.
Of course this won't happen. State lawmakers aren't going to approve of something which will eliminate some of their jobs. The bickering over legislative districts would be intense.
It could work, though, and it should be considered.
If the legislative districts were larger, maybe more counties like Carbon wouldn't have to be splintered and instead have a single representative who will truly be their voice in Harrisburg.
And it would truly be in the interest of the people of the Commonwealth to have a leaner state government.
By RON GOWER