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Needed - a citizen legislature

Published March 26. 2011 09:14AM

Dear Editor:

Sen. Argall has taken positions on dozens of issues in his 27-year career. Oftentimes we agree, sometimes we disagree. When the disagreement centers on the very foundation of our representative democracy, I am obliged to speak up.

Specifically, Sen. Argall advocates reducing the number of senators and representatives in the General Assembly. Yes, Pennsylvania's Legislature is one of the most expensive and corrupt in the country.

But our Legislature's cost and corruption are not borne of its size. The culprit is the erosion of America's founding tradition of a part-time and term-limited "citizen legislature." Consider New Hampshire. It is a fraction of the size and population of the Keystone State, but its legislature is nearly double the size of Pennsylvania's! The Granite State's legislators are part-time and earn a meager stipend.

Sen. Argall might rebut that a large, geographically and demographically diverse state like ours needs a full-time legislature. I would counsel Sen. Argall to study Texas. The Lone Star State is four times Pennsylvania's size geographically and twice its size demographically, and yet somehow its part-time legislature runs the affairs of the Lone Star State better than the General Assembly manages the Keystone State's. In fact, 46 states have a part-time legislature.

Bottom line: Decreasing the size of the General Assembly will make legislators even more unresponsive to the citizenry. If Sen. Argall is serious about changing the culture of corruption in Harrisburg and making state government less expensive and more accountable to the people, then he should abandon his advocacy of a reduction in the size of the General Assembly and instead work toward restoring a "citizen legislature."

Joe Sterns

Deer Lake

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