(WHTM) — Pennsylvania is one of four states with a full-time legislature, but one Midstate lawmaker wants that to change.
“By not having compressed deadlines, we’re allowed to be in session forever, to put off making decisions until tomorrow, a tomorrow that never comes,” Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Franklin County) said.
Making Pennsylvania’s legislature part-time would require a constitutional amendment, so Schemel is introducing a bill to start that conversation.
“What we can do is we can change the compensation of lawmakers,” he said.
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania make six-figure salaries. Schemel’s bill would drop that to $25,000.
“At a rate of $25,000, I would say most state policymakers are not going to continence being in Harrisburg in session, all year long,” Schemel said.
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However, some say a part-time legislature would have serious consequences.
“There’s the possibility that power would move to the people who were there all the time. So the executive branch of government, the bureaucracy, would likely increase the amount of power that they have,” Widener law professor Michael Dimino said.
Dimino added it is already difficult to be a lawmaker. These changes would make it harder.
“It’ll be even harder to find people who are willing to do away with their other jobs and serve in the legislature. It’s hard enough to find talented people who are willing to spend the amount of time and effort to protect the interests of the people of this Commonwealth when they have a full time job that they might have only for two years,” he said.
Schemel disagrees. He said a part-time legislature would attract more professionals.
“They have flexibility in their schedule and could be in part of a part-time legislature,” he said.
However, Dimino said it could end up having the opposite effect, depending on how a part-time schedule is structured.
“It’s awfully hard to hold down a regular job and then take on a job that requires you to work two-thirds of the time,” he said. “What you might end up having is more people who are either independently wealthy and don’t have to worry about a job or people who are retired.”
Schemel has proposed this before. House Democratic Policy Chairman Rep. Ryan Bizzarro made that clear in a statement:
“Republicans have controlled the state legislature for 26 of the past 30 years. To let you know how strong of a proposal this is, Rep. Schemel couldn’t convince his own colleagues to run this bill when they had the majority. If he couldn’t even get his own party on board, I don’t see it getting a vote this session. This is nothing more than a ploy to score cheap political points.”Rep. Ryan Bizarro, House Democratic Policy Chairman
Schemel hopes this time will be different, given the time House lawmakers lost at the beginning of the year because of back-and-forth arguments over who would be speaker as well as special elections.
“Since we’ve done nothing for four months so we can see the importance of having deadlines, maybe that will bring this issue to a forefront the way it hasn’t been able to be brought before,” Schemel said.