Reducing the size of the legislature….Be Careful What You Ask For!

We’ve all heard the mantra of smaller government but much of that chatter is a distortion of limiting the authority, reach and scope of government, not actually related to the size. Conservative advocates of reducing the size of the legislative body point to the savings but that’s a debatable point. Less legislators doesn’t necessarily translate into less expense. It means that there would be fewer legislators who would represent larger territories and that could translate into increasing offices and the necessary staff to maintain those offices.

There is even a greater danger. Less legislators means expanding their districts and that expansion could be gerrymandered in such a way that smaller more conservative districts would be swallowed up by larger less conservative areas effectively rendering the voice of the smaller communities silent.

We can see this in our federal representation to Congress where Charlie Dent and Ryan Costello were more dependent on the more liberal factions of the larger areas in their district. While they claimed pro-life positions when they ran for office, once elected they betray that position as we saw with their most recent vote.

We already complain that leadership in the Parties has too much power over the legislative bodies; less representatives only increases the potential for more power.

With less legislators there is also the potential of growing the administrative bodies and giving them more authority then they already have. The bodies are unelected and generally operate outside of the scrutiny of the public while having regulatory powers as well as the power to attach fees and fines.

Less legislators also translates into more money from lobbyists factions to be distributed through fewer legislators in their attempts at controlling elections. The boon to public sector union revenue by decreasing the size of the legislative body means that they can redirect money that is spread between several candidates and use the same amount of money on fewer candidates. Larger territories makes it harder for fiscally conservative candidates who aren’t being backed by party, corporate or union factions to generate the needed revenue to compete in those elections.

In a report from the Commonwealth Foundation from February of this year we are told:

According to the most recent state campaign finance reports, the PACs of seven Pennsylvania government unions donated more than $10.5 million to candidates in the 2013-2014 election cycle.

The bill passed in the House would cut House members by ¼ from 203 to 151. That gives these government union PACs the opportunity to take that 10.5 million and instead of spreading that over 203 races, to focus that money on only 151 races. If that 10.5 million is equally distributed to 203 campaigns, that translates into almost $52,000 per district. For 151 districts that translates into almost $70,000 per political campaign. Obviously they don’t need to pour that money into all the districts, just in enough districts to assure there are enough votes to go their way. Fewer Candidates and that means fewer districts to control. That also makes it much more difficult for more accountable people from the citizenry to rise up and oppose these powerful forces.

Making the legislators accountable for their own pensions, making the per diem system more accountable, essentially restoring the legislation body to its Constitutional limits of salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever, would go a long way towards saving the same amount of money that we might see by reducing the size of the legislator…or better yet, what about a part-time legislative body at reduced salaries.

Does anybody have any doubt that if this is passed legislators wouldn’t think they deserve more money because they have larger districts which they’ll translate into greater responsibilities?

Be careful what you ask for! Smaller government isn’t really about limiting the power of government and we need to understand that it’s not really the size but the abuses of power that’s the problem. Putting that power in the hands of fewer people isn’t likely to reduce corruption. Instead it will just make it easier for the powerful to hide it.

Remember, the smallest form of government is a dictatorship. The further we get away from representative government the closer we draw towards absolute power in the hands of the few.



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