Common Cause Pennsylvania Urges Legislature To Vote No on HB153
- Micah Sims
Based on our extensive review of House Bill 153, which reduces the size of the legislature, Common Cause Pennsylvania strongly recommends a NO vote on the bill. Sponsors of the bill offer it as reform and argue that it provides significant savings through the reduction of costs and greater legislative accountability. Our review looks both at the merits of the bill on its face, and takes a serious look at whether this is truly reform.
True reform must improve the way our government works by making it more responsive and more representative. Change for the sake of change is not reform. Changes to the size of the legislature without changing the back-room process for drawing districts, is not true reform. HB 153 will not improve the efficiency or effectiveness of Pennsylvania’s government. Reducing the number of legislators would not automatically result in an equal reduction in either direct or indirect costs.
Common Cause Pennsylvania believes in good, efficient, and effective government, however not while diminishing the voice, concerns and rights of others. We believe this bill could actually take our commonwealth backwards and not forwards. The bill lacks fairness, transparency, and hints of being a form of voter suppression. Our analysis believes that under the current process any reduction of size in the legislature would unfairly impact communities of color. The possible reduction would have the most severe impact wherever high population or growing population exists according to the upcoming census. And right now as proposed in this bill, the reduction in representation will likely produce a reduction in citizen input and participation.
Further, the reduction in the size of the legislature proposed by HB153 lacks a fair, transparent and equitable process to create the reduced number of districts. In light of current litigation and public furor on gerrymandering it is unconscionable to pass any piece of legislation creating, drawing, redrawing or eliminating legislative districts without first fixing the process of how we do it.
Common Cause Pennsylvania believes in a reflective democracy and to that end we cannot support HB153 as presently composed. We would offer the following considerations to the sponsors of the bill:
- Any true reform must include a change to the way districts are drawn. We recommend either passing separate legislation, such as House Bill 722 or making part of the reduction bill the creation of an independent redistricting commission to draw legislative districts to ensure fairness, transparency and equity
- Smaller, more reflective legislature may make it easier to adopt and implement more substantive legislative reforms to improve the lives of all citizens. Any reforms must be in accordance with the values of Pennsylvanians, including racial and gender equity, transparency, and accountability.
- While reducing costs is a worthwhile objective, there are more substantive cost-cutting policy changes and reforms than reducing the size of the legislature that could produce greater savings. We recommend creating a report highlighting other means to reduce the costs of government and using that report as the basis for further reform.
- Reduction without policy and reform involving transparency and accountability is ineffective. We recommend the creation of a package of bills involving transparency and accountability for individual members, committees and legislature as a whole.
Common Cause Pennsylvania offers our full support on legislation and policies which demonstrate a reflective democracy, the practices of good government and improve citizen participation. Because House Bill 153 does not uphold these values, we urge a vote in opposition.