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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of February 1, 2016

The Senate passed my medical cannabis bill, Senate Bill 3, nearly a year ago on May 12, 2015. This week, I expressed my frustration with the lack of progress in getting this life saving legislation to the Governor’s desk.

 1/26/16 - Medical Cannabis

Bill Passes Senate, Goes to House
Senate Bill 166 – (unanimous) expands expungement of criminal history records.

Bill Passes Senate, Goes to Governor for Further Action
House Bill 1201 – repeals an archaic 1943 law for Federal government construction of World War II roads.

House Bill 153: Reducing the Size of the PA House of Representatives
House Bill 153 passed both the PA Senate and House in the 2015-16 Legislative Session. As this is a proposed constitutional amendment to reduce the PA House of Representatives from 203 Members to 151, it will have to also pass again in the 2017-18 Legislative Session before going to the voters to be approved in a general election.

Column: Starting an Important Debate
Article I, Section 2 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution affirms: “All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they [the people] have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper.”

However, Pennsylvania’s Constitution provides just one practical way for people to alter their government: the amendment process, which requires statewide voter approval after passage by both chambers of the General Assembly in two consecutive Legislative Sessions.

One recurring proposal for change is a constitutional amendment to reduce the size of the General Assembly. Recently, the Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, considered two such bills.

Senator Vogel’s Senate Bill 488 is a proposed constitutional amendment to reduce the Pennsylvania House from 203 Members to 153 and the Pennsylvania Senate from 50 to 45. Representative Knowles’ House Bill 153 is another proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to reduce the Pennsylvania House only: to 151 Members.

While both bills were reported to the full Senate for consideration, the debate was both spirited and insightful:

Arguments in favor of a smaller Legislature note strong public support, possible cost savings, and the ability to better use technology for constituent services. Opponents say a reduction would create districts too large for personal interactions, higher costs due to more offices and staff, and particular challenges for rural areas.

In doing due diligence on these issues, I contacted a number of groups and was pleased the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau shared their concerns: “[A] reduction in [the] number of House and Senate Districts would further diminish the opportunity for those in rural areas to have a meaningful voice in our Commonwealth’s business . . . . Not only would a reduction in legislative districts increase the likelihood of shifting representation away from rural communities, the fewer districts remaining in rural areas will likely be larger in size, making it even more difficult and time-consuming for the elected representative in these districts to adequately serve his or her constituents.”

During our Committee discussion, we learned cost savings of reducing the Senate from 50 to 45 was estimated at $9.5 Million. Also, when comparing the size of State Senates with the populations they serve, Pennsylvania’s 50 Senators in a Commonwealth of 12,702,379 people results in an average per Senate District of 254,048 people – 7th smallest in the nation.

The average size of State Senates in the US is 39, with Minnesota having the largest (67) and Alaska the smallest (20 Senators). Four other states also have 50 Senators like Pennsylvania: Indiana, Iowa, Montana, and North Carolina.

The average State House across the nation has 108 Members, with New Hampshire being the largest (400) and Alaska – again – the smallest (40 House Members).

The average overall size of state legislatures nationwide is 148 Members. New Hampshire is the largest (424 House and Senate Members) and Nebraska (the only unicameral legislature) the smallest (49 Members total).

Because both SB 488 and HB 153 are proposed constitutional amendments impacting the people’s government, I believe the people should decide and I look forward to the debate.

Governor “Surprised by the Weather” Despite Hiring State Meteorologist
Pennsylvania’s budget impasse continues. I believe government should live within its means, which is why I questioned the 2015 hiring of a $62,000 “State Meteorologist” (plus $44,500 in benefits): “Hiring of a State Meteorologist Draws Stormy Response.” This done three months after the budget deadline (and on top of PennDOT’s $116,247 annual contract with AccuWeather), while schools and essential services were not being funded. Meanwhile, the Governor was “surprised by the weather” this past weekend? Hard to understand: “ Wolf: ‘Number of surprises with this storm.’”

Contact Information
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are of concern to you. I may be reached through my website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.

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