How many legislators does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Speaking of smaller government, Representative Brock Greenfield (R-6/Clark) has filed House Bill 1187, which declares the Legislature's intent to downsize itself by almost a third, to a 25-member Senate and 50-member House.
Considering that legislators (including good Republican Reps. Rave and Noem) declined Monday to cut their own pay by 5%, the chances that they'll put 30 of themselves out of their part-time jobs seem pretty slim.
Even if HB 1187 might save money, do we really want to reduce the number of voices being heard in Pierre? 30 fewer representatives in the Capitol could represent a significant dilution of the popular voice. Some reps would end up having to cover a lot of territory to reach all of their constituents. Our District 8, for instance, already spans four counties along a hundred miles of Highway 34. The Internet is nice for keeping in touch, but it still doesn't replace a good face-to-face crackerbarrel.
30 fewer legislators saves $180K in legislator salaries and some administrative expenses. But that also means a third more constituent complaints and requests and other work that each legislator has to handle. It would mean fewer kids who get to serve as pages and witness legislative work firsthand. It would mean fewer legislators that the governor has to strong-arm to get his way.
If all this bill does is save money, that's not good enough. I'll need to hear an argument that a smaller legislature is good for democracy before I can support it.
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