We're the sixth-largest state. We have the largest full-time legislature. We pay more per capita to run it than that in any other state. We overpay and overperk its members; then we frog-walk its leaders off to prison.
But I digress.
Republican Speaker Sam Smith, from the state's favorite February town of Punxsutawney, is sponsor of cleverly numbered House Bill 153 to cut the House from 203 to - care to guess? - 153.
Before you stand and cheer, understand that: (a) it faces opposition; (b) it keeps the Senate at 50 members; (c) it requires amending the Constitution, approval in two legislative sessions and a voter referendum ( no problemo with the latter) and couldn't take effect until after the next U.S. census in 2020.
Still, ya gotta start somewhere.
There is, of course, no guarantee that a smaller House means fewer slackers, grubbers or improvement in the dimwit discourse we've all come to expect.
I'm thinking of moments such as African-American Philly Democrat John Myers calling a GOP Caucasian member a "cracker"; or, more recently, Philly Democrat Babette Josephs calling women lawmakers who disagree with her on an ultrasound measure "men with breasts."
But there's an absolute guarantee that smaller costs less.
The Temple study uses recent data showing that only California, a state three times our size, spends more on legislative services. We're second, at $331 million a year.
But keep your head high. As mentioned, we're first in per-capita cost; California lags at fifth.
We spend way more than neighbors (New York, $221 million; New Jersey, $78 million; Ohio, $42 million) and far more than other large states (Michigan, $98 million; Illinois, $73 million; Wisconsin, $59 million).
For two reasons: Our lawmakers have the largest staff in the nation - nearly 3,000 - and among the most generous benefits, especially pensions.
Special tip of the hat (and our wallets) to retired Philly Democratic Rep. Frank Oliver, whose pension take is $286,118 a year.
But I digress.
The Temple project doesn't take sides on size. It offers pros and cons.
Joseph McLaughlin, director of Temple's public-affairs institute, says it presents lawmakers with a "self-examination that gets the facts out."
Here are two ironic ones: the Legislature's size was doubled in the late 1800s to reduce odds of corruption (too many votes to buy); and made full time in the late 1960s because it wasn't getting anything done.
I assume I need not comment on either of these points.
On one hand, large legislatures are better for smaller communities whose voices can get lost and better for the public because they offer more constituent service.
On the other hand, smaller bodies promote managerial and fiscal efficiency, and a smaller legislature with larger districts means more diversity within each district, which encourages moderate, middle-ground representation.
I'm willing to sacrifice a little "constituent service" in the name of cost savings and diversity-driven governance.
I'd love for the size debate to focus on exactly what taxpayers get for paying the highest per-capita costs in the country. What value's returned on investment?
And as lawmakers cut social services, education and health care, forcing many to do more with less, I'd love to hear why they're not willing to do exactly the same.
For recent columns, go to
philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.