CF: The Case for a Citizen Legislature

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

CF Releases The Case for a Citizen Legislature

The Commonwealth Foundation today released The Case for a Citizen Legislature, a policy brief by Elizabeth Bryan and Nathan Benefield.

Executive Summary

At 253 members and bearing a price tag of $300 million, Pennsylvania’s legislature is the most expensive and second largest in the country.
The operating cost of the Pennsylvania General Assembly has steadily increased, while Pennsylvania’s economy has been stagnant. The Keystone State’s burden of state and local taxes is among the heaviest in the country, while it ranks near the bottom in economic growth and freedom.

This reality can be addressed by a number of reforms that would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Pennsylvania’s legislature.

• Limited Sessions: Pennsylvania’s General Assembly is one of four full-time state legislatures. Returning it to a part-time body (with a limited number of session days) would help return it to a citizen-led legislature.

• Compensation and Benefits: The virtue of "public service" should be restored through a reassessment of the compensation and benefits provided to public servants. At the very least, public servants’ remuneration should not exceed the compensation and benefits commonly provided for comparable work in the private sector.

• Term Limits: Pennsylvania currently limits the number of terms a governor can serve. Term limits should also be placed on the General Assembly. Term-limiting committee chairmanships would be a meaningful first step.

• Spending Transparency: Creating an online, itemized database of state spending – as 30 other states have done – would allow lawmakers and citizens to identify wasteful spending.

• Initiative and Referendum: Twenty-four states have initiative and referendum, whereby citizens can enact laws and constitutional amendments, as well as reject laws and amendments passed by the legislature. This would ensure Pennsylvanians are sovereign and serve as an important check on the power of state government.

To download the full PDF version go to

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The Commonwealth Foundation ( is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.