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By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – Legislation that could end up reducing the size of the state House by about a fourth has cleared a House committee.

The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Sam Smith, would authorize a voter referendum on amending the state constitution to reduce the 203 member state House to 153.

Opponents, like Delaware County Democrat Greg Vitali, say currently, state House districts are small enough for personal contact with constituents. “This size of the district makes it possible for an individual legislator to win that district purely on shoe leather.”

Fewer seats, he says, would mean bigger districts. “You decrease the ability of a legislator to be free of the corrupting influence – which we are all aware of – of special interest group money.”

But supporters like Republican Seth Grove say it sends the right message: “We’re serious about cutting our costs; we’re serious about right-sizing government.”

And Republican Daryl Metcalfe, chairman of the House State Government Committee, says it would send a message to the rest of state government, “to call on the executive and the judicial (branches) that we will be advancing legislation to reduce them by 25%.”

Metcalfe’s committee approved the bill and the full House could vote on it as soon as next month.

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