Bethlehem Press

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Knowles blasts Dems

Thursday, October 11, 2018 by BRUCE FRASSINELLI in Local News

House reduction fails

State Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Schuylkill-Carbon, called out House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, Wednesday for the failure of Knowles’ House-reduction bill last week.

Knowles has been on the forefront of an effort to reduce the size of the state House of Representatives from its current 203 members to 151. The original bill left the 50-member state Senate intact.

Last week, three Republicans joined with all 14 Democrats on the House Rules Committee to amend Knowles’ original bill to include a reduction in the number of senators from 50 to 38.

This was the poison pill that doomed the legislation, because there is little support in the Senate for a reduction in its number, although the Senate was willing to go along with the House reduction.

In 2011, then-Speaker Sam Smith, a Jefferson County Republican, introduced a bill that would trim down the House. Smith could not make it happen, but his idea lives on.

While some supporters may see it as a way to cut costs for what is the country’s largest full-time Legislature — and second-largest overall, after New Hampshire — that was not the goal Smith had in mind.

He saw it as a way to make the House easier to manage, easier to reach members on short notice and easier to get their feedback on legislative matters.

“We would be a more efficient body if the House of Representatives was smaller,” Smith said at the time.

Smith retired at the end of 2014, and the proposal is now pushed by Knowles.

Knowles’ bill would have called for a constitutional amendment to let voters decide. Going this route is difficult, because it requires the House and Senate to pass identical bills twice in consecutive legislative sessions, after which it must be approved by the voters. Both houses did pass Knowles’ bill once, but not twice.

“Thanks to Dermody’s mischief,” Knowles said in a statement, “House Bill 153 may just die this session, thereby denying the people of Pennsylvania the ability to decide. While the Democrat leader often claims to be ‘for the people,’ his actions … are more telling than mere words on press releases.”

Knowles said that smaller government, cutting costs and efficiency are at the heart of his bill. He said because of Dermody’s “shenanigans,” the entire process will have to restart. Knowles, who said the Rules Committee’s action may have inflicted a mortal blow on the legislation, pledged to continue his six-year battle to have this measure become law.

The Associated Press contributed to this story