Pennsylvania’s House votes to shrink the Pennsylvania House

Caption: TO GO WITH THE STORY BY Andrew BEATTY A picture made October 14, 2011 shows the Capitol Building in Pennsylvania's capital Harrisburg. Pennsylvania's state capital has filed for bankruptcy fuelling fears it is the first domino in a chain of municipal defaults, but Harrisburg's fate may have as much to do with politics as finance. AFP PHOTO/Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images) Pennsylvania’s capitol building. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty)

Pennsylvania’s House is just too big, according to Pennsylvania’s House.

The body voted on Tuesday to slim down by slashing a fourth of its membership — from 203 members to 153 — while also approving a separate measure that would shrink the Senate from 50 to 38. The constitutional amendments would have to pass the state Senate and get voter approval, but the House votes move them a step closer to becoming a reality. Downsizing the House was approved in a 148 to 50 vote, while two members switched from nos to yeses on the vote to shrink the Senate.

If approved, Pennsylvania wouldn’t be the only state to change its legislative size in recent memory, but it would be close. Just five states — Idaho, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Wyoming — have changed their legislative size since 1990, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. And only one of those was a meaningful shift, the organization’s Morgan Cullen and Karl Kurtz wrote in a 2011 blog post.

“Since the early 1980s, the only state that made a significant change in the size of their house chambers is Rhode Island. The Ocean State reduced its membership from 100 to 75 in 2004,” they wrote.


Changes in the sizes of state legislatures from 1960 to 2011, according to NCSL data.

A change to the size of Pennsylvania’s legislature would mean each state House member would represent 83,000 people, up from 62,500, according to The Patriot News. The shift would make Pennsylvania the state with the 10th largest House districts, by constituent representation, according to 2010 NCSL data. Pennsylvania is currently 18th.

State legislature sizes vary a lot. Nebraska is home to just 49 state legislators, while New Hampshire is home to 424. House lawmakers in California represent slightly more than 465,000 constituents, while those in New Jersey are next with nearly 220,000. In California and Texas, state senators represent more constituents than does any member of the federal House of Representatives.

House members in New Hampshire and Vermont represent the fewest constituents of any state. The average number of constituents per district in Vermont is 4,172, while in New Hampshire it is just under 3,300.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.

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