Wednesday, January 25, 2012

At least pick a prime number

So a news item out of Harrisburg included a bill passed in the state house that would lead toward the Pennsylvania General Assembly shrinking from 203 members to 153 members. It's a long way to go before it gets enacted, but it might be a starting point.

but 153?  Is there some aversion to round numbers in base 10 math?  Master triangle math the motivation?  Why 153?

It might be interesting for reform of the Pennylvania legislature to go just a bit further than just reducing the number by 50 or so.  Would it be too much to try and impose a little more order on the whole system? Don't answer that.  Our neighbors to the west in Ohio actually have a much more rational legislative structure.   99 members make up their house of representaives while there are 33 senators.  The big difference is that the 3 to 1 ratio in Ohio is how the districts are spatially defined.  Each senate district is made up of exactly the 3 general assembly districts which are coterminus in perfect tessellation. Just saying that if the proposed number of general assembly districts for Pennsylvania was150 and not 153 then it could work out the same with the 50 Pennsylvania senate districts. A tweak in the proposed law on how the general assembly districts are drawn could create a structure much like Ohio's.  Think how much clearer that would be? Who would want that?

Not to say all that goes on in Ohio makes sense to me.  This current proposal to transfer Ohio's control of the wholesale liquor market to a nonprofit with a monetized bond payment is all too convoluted to figure out. Which is why I am waiting for someone to come up with a corollary to try in Pennsylvania.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohio is east?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 8:52:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Unicameral or bust.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 8:57:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Duh.. looking at my globe upside down. Corrected. Thx.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 9:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with MH. Get rid of the Senate. The State Senate would only make sense if every county had 1 Senator. Senate Seats are next to impossible to raise enough money and do enough grass roots to beat an incumbant. So if we just make the State House smaller, we will just create more powerful and untouchable legislators.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 9:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do find it fascinating that good government-types are so focused on the simple size of the Legislature in a state the size of PA. To me, it seems inescapable that a smaller Legislature will ensure more power for moneyed special interests and more expensive elections. For comparison's sake, Nebraska, the only state with a unicameral legislature, has less population than the combined population of Allegheny, Westmoreland and Washington counties.

Similarly, EVERYONE it seems resists governmental consolidation at the local level in PA. Which is where the aggegate size and cost of government is most eggregious due to duplication. I don't understand the disconnect between wanting "local control" of municipalities, school districts, and the onmipresent authorities but less representative government at the state level.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 9:53:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

To me, it seems inescapable that a smaller Legislature will ensure more power for moneyed special interests and more expensive elections.

I don't see how you figure that way. When you have 49 senators (the number in the Nebraska Legislature), the leadership doesn't matter nearly so much and each member has more room to move and can be held accountable by voters for those moves. What you have in the current PA system might make it possible to run with less money*, but getting in doesn’t give you any influence until you’ve clawed your way up in the leadership. And the leadership in the Pennsylvania legislature is fantastically self-serving and obviously criminal. Which may explain why Nebraska has pavement without so many giant holes in it.

*Not less money than in Nebraska now, but less money than if the PA legislature went unicameral.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Also, you can buy beer, wine, and liquor in the grocery store instead of having to hit three separate stores before the weekend.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MH: Simple Math.

Nebraska: 1.7 million persons and 49 representatives means each representative serves about 34,694 constituents in a state without a single major TV market.

Pennsylvania: 13.3 million persons and 49 representatives means each rep serves about 271,429 contituents in a state with two major media markets and no fewer than five medium-size media markets.

You do the math where it will be more expensive to run for office.

Moreover, I would very much like to see any peer-reviewed study demonstrating that incumbents have such little power in Nebraska.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 3:35:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

The Nebraska legislature has eight year terms limits, so I'd guess that nobody bothered to do anything peer reviewed to prove incumbents have limited power. That wasn't my point anyway, except incidentally. I'm not a fan of term limits in general and I’m not opposed to incumbency per se.

I dispute that having more representatives for a given population is actually more effective representation. According to this, every state but New Hampshire has a smaller ratio of legislators to population than Pennsylvania. We certainly don’t have the second best legislature. Elections are relatively cheap in Pennsylvania compared to what they might be with a larger district, but that isn’t because PA has figured out a way to keep money out of politics by using face-to-face contact with constituents. It’s because the leadership of both parties colludes to make sure that the districts are as uncompetitive as possible. What we have is a bunch of sinecures and mini-dynasties. (Fun Fact: The Nebraska state legislature has 49 people with 49 different last names.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 4:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Local mergers make sense in some places, but not in others. What people don't know is that large groups of muncipalities belong to councils of governments that do bidding and buying for the entire group. So to some degree the things that local government can do to save money by merging, they are already doing but nobody seems to know this.

Thursday, January 26, 2012 9:40:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Some of us know all about COGs :-)

when I get a chance I will compute the percentage of all municipal expenditures that go through COG's in Allegheny county.

The most substantial example of municipal sharing of services is teh Northern Regional police, but that technically isn't a COG.

Thursday, January 26, 2012 9:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Briem said it. Purchasing through COGs is great. Shared municipal services like police protection, though, promises so much more savings and efficiency.

Thursday, January 26, 2012 6:34:00 PM  

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