At least they're consistent.
Whenever there's even a glimmer of hope that the Pennsylvania legislature might act in the interest of governmental common sense, a lawmaker in one party or the other, in one chamber or the other, or everybody acting in collusion, finds a way to slip back into darkness.
And, so, yet again, on the verge of allowing voters to decide whether the legislature's too large (spoiler alert: it is), lawmakers are opting to keep the public out of the discussion, and to continue clinging to (all of their) seats.
The state House this week had a chance to pass a bill it passed before to cut the size of the nation's largest full-time legislature, now 203 representatives and 50 senators.
The measure was one vote away from getting to a statewide ballot question that asks voters whether the House should be reduced by roughly 25 percent, to 151 members.
Ah, but House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny) on Tuesday pulled a fast one.
In a Rules Committee meeting, Dermody won support for changing the bill back to an earlier version that included also cutting the Senate.
This is a poison pill. A death sentence.
The Senate's not going to cut itself — which, at 50 members, is reasonable.
(Unless individual senators could be cut selectively. I've got ideas.)
Afterward, Dermody's spokesperson Bill Patton tells me Dermody "and a majority of the Rules Committee felt that any move to reduce the legislature should contemplate both chambers, not just one. Today's vote allows this important conversation to continue during the next session, as it should."
My response was "Oh, brother."
This is the game they play. Ping-pong. They play it over and over. That's because reducing the legislature requires amending the state constitution, which requires the House and Senate to pass the same bill in two successive two-year sessions to get to a ballot question.
Last session, both chambers passed a bill to cut the House. A tease, it turns out. This session, when it counts, a House-cut bill twice came from the Senate. In February, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R., Bucks) added the Senate. Now, Dermody added the Senate, so we're at a no-go.
The nice thing for lawmakers? In an election year, many can say, "Hey, I voted to cut the size of the legislature," because at some point they probably did.
And, yes, New Hampshire's legislature is bigger. It has 424 members. But it's part-time. And its lawmakers make $100 a year with no per diems.
Base salary for our crowd is $87,180. Top leaders make $136,000. This doesn't count per diems of up to $180 a day, plus a package of health and pension benefits that, let's just say, is adequate.
I've argued for years that it makes no sense for the fifth-largest state to have the largest full-time legislature.
(This fiscal year it costs taxpayers $337 million. It scheduled only 46 voting days.)
I've noted that only four states have full-time legislatures, according to the standard used by the National Conference of State Legislatures: full-time, well-paid, large staffs. The four are California, New York, Michigan, and us.
And California, the only state that pays lawmakers more, has fewer than half the number of lawmakers we have — but they serve three times our population.
In the handful of voting days remaining this year (in the House that's a scheduled total of six), there's a chance the House-cut bill's sponsor, Rep. Jerry Knowles (R., Schuylkill), will try a procedural motion to suspend House rules and revert to his original bill.
But that requires support of two-thirds of the House. So, you know, good luck, Jerry.