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Downsizing Pennsylvania State Legislature
June 2, 2014
HARRISBURG- A Berks County lawmaker says she’s very encouraged that a state Senate committee plans to meet next week to consider legislation that would reduce the size of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.

Senator Judy Schwank of Berks County strongly supports legislation that would reduce the size of the state Senate and House of Representatives.

The Senate State Government Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, June 3, to consider two bills that would reduce the size of the state legislature.

House Bill 1234, which passed the House in December on a vote of 148-50, would reduce the House by 50 members from 203 to 153. The measure does not address reducing the size of the Senate.

A Senate sponsored bill calls for reducing the House to 121 members and the Senate to 30 members. However, an amendment is apparently in the works that would reduce the Senate from 50 to 45 members but leave the House at 121.

Senator Schwank says the time for talk is over. She wants to see the committee and the full Senate take action on reducing the cost and size of the General Assembly. The Berks County Democrat introduced her own legislation (Senate Bill 336) early last year that would cut the Senate by 10 members and the House by 82. And, although the measure has 14 co-sponsors including Republicans, the GOP controlled Senate has decided to take up a bill sponsored by a Beaver County Republican.

Senator Schwank also talks about the difficulty facing the General Assembly over the next month trying to hammer out a balanced state budget. Right now, the state’s projected deficit for this year totals more than $500 million, and upwards of $1.2 billion for the fiscal year 2014-15.

Senator Schwank says her top priorities include adequately funding public education and social programs at the county level. She says in order to do that the state needs additional revenue and should enact a severance or extraction tax on the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry drillers.

A new state budget must be in place by June 30th.

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