EAGLE — According to four members of the grassroots group Fair Districts Pennsylvania, 253 members of the state legislature in Harrisburg need fixing.

With nearly 60,000 email addresses on file, Fair Districts is working to change a “bloated” system in the state capital where a few “gatekeepers” make all the rules and severely limit new laws, according to information on the group’s website.

“People don’t realize how much the Pennsylvania Legislature affects their daily lives,” Carol Kuniholm, chairwoman of Fair Districts PA and a resident of Oaklawn, said Thursday at a restaurant in the Igloo. “Things that people really care about are not getting done because of a dysfunctional state legislature.”

Even bills with bipartisan support often fail to reach both chambers for a vote.

Eighty-seven percent of school districts asked lawmakers to vote on “better rules” for charter school funding, and the committee refused, Kuniholm said.

Fair districts argue that part of the problem is drawing the map lines that define legislative district boundaries. This redistricting is required every 10 years and is based on the census.

Through gerrymandering, those in the majority party can often decide the outcome of an election, the balance of power in the legislature, and ultimately who decides which bills come up for a full vote.
“The rules give all the power to a very few people,” Kuniholm said, “and prevent reform.”

Kuniholm compared Pennsylvania’s state legislature to Utah’s, which meets for six to seven weeks a year and passes 10 times as many bills.

“Small fixes don’t solve the underlying problem,” she said.

All four members agreed Thursday that education is key. Eleven thousand people have signed a petition distributed by Fair Districts calling for better regulations.

“When we get voters to stop and listen, they’re usually willing to sign the petition,” said volunteer Kent Kingan.

“Start over,” said Nancy Krablin, Oaklawn resident and Chester County event coordinator.

“There’s a lot of built-in excess, and it’s costing taxpayers a lot of money,” Nancy Krablin said.

Kuniholm said each bill is a “bargaining coin” with a partisan advantage.

“Legislators or sponsors don’t really want bills passed, they just want to say they introduced a bill,” said volunteer Larry Krablin of Oakland.

The Legislature votes on the rules for the next biennial session on January 3, 2023. Fair Districts urges voters to contact their elected representatives and urge them to set rules to encourage new laws.

For more information or to sign the Fair Districts petition, follow the link www.fixharrisburg.com