Friday, January 27, 2006

Another state legislator hangs it up

I'm starting to get dizzy trying to keep track of who is retiring and the people who want to replace them. The latest is 139th District State Representative Jerry Birmelin.

HARRISBURG - Wayne County Republican Rep. Jerry Birmelin has decided against running for a 12th term in the state House of Representatives, becoming the sixth Northeastern Pennsylvania lawmaker to retire since the pay raise controversy began. He said the public uproar of last year's legislative pay raise, which he supported, did not play a role in his decision to step down at the end of the 2005-2006 legislative session."Two years ago, I almost didn't run again," he said. "So this decision has been almost really two years in the making." Mr. Birmelin would not speculate on whether he might pursue a second career, though he did say he would consider running for U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood's seat if the veteran congressman should decide to retire in 2008 or beyond.

They all deny the pay raise controversy has anything to do with the decision and just want to spend more time with their family. Statewide, 22 lawmakers -three in the Senate and 19 in the House - have decided to step down this year. Groups like PACleanSweep are taking credit for this housecleaning:

PACleanSweep will make history next week when it introduces over 70 candidates for the Pennsylvania General Assembly in the Capitol Rotunda. The non-partisan grassroots organization has been working to raise, interview and approve challengers to incumbent lawmakers across the Commonwealth since it was founded last July."A revolution is about to begin in Pennsylvania," said Russ Diamond, PACleanSweep founder and chair, "and this group of candidates is just the opening salvo. We have a backlog of candidates who are seeking our support. Each is committed to the restoration of honor, dignity and integrity to a legislature which has become self- serving, unresponsive and out of touch with ordinary citizens."

It will be interesting to see if any of the announced Luzerne County candidates are part of this group. There is also some noise about reducing the size of the legislature but it is hard to believe that they will vote themselves out of a job.

HARRISBURG - A push to reduce the size of Pennsylvania's Legislature has lawmakers debating what benefits, if any, might be gained by thinning their own ranks.Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous state, but with 253 lawmakers - 203 in the House of Representatives and 50 in the Senate - it has the second largest Legislature, behind only New Hampshire at 424. It also has the second largest number of legislative staff, second only to New York, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rep. Tom Caltagirone, D-Berks, is among those who want to trim the numbers. He drafted a bill that would cut the House to 103 members and the Senate to 26 through a Constitutional amendment.

The best comment I read on this idea came from Capitol Ideas:

Is It Too Much A Coincidence ...... that on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law, Pennsylvania lawmakers held a public hearing on plans to shrink the size of the state Legislature? We couldn't be that lucky.

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