Serious Effort to Reduce Number of State Reps
The Missouri Democratic Party has announced that it will be launching an initiative petition to reduce the number of state representatives. The Missouri Record has hosted a debate about the proposal between former auditor Susan Montee (in favor of lowering the number), and former state Rep. Ed Emery (opposed). Ed is one of my favorite politicians, but this is one instance in which I agree with the Democrats.
I have been making this argument for a while, and I am excited that one of our two major parties will undertake a serious effort to reduce Missouri’s number of state reps.
Missouri has the fourth-highest number of state reps. I support lowering that number for several reasons. There is strong economic evidence that, in general, the more members in an elected body the more that body spends. It is called the “Law of 1/N.” There is evidence to support this theory at the national level, the state level, the county level, and the local level. However, the Law of 1/N has been found to have less of an effect on state Houses than on other types of political bodies. Nonetheless, common sense tells us that more legislators means more pet projects, more legislative horsetrading, more tightly defined benefits, and more easily diffused costs. Just because something appears to be a partial exception to the rule does not mean the rule should be completely ignored.
Second, I don’t like that many people to have the ability to make rules about my life. I don’t believe that having more reps makes it harder to pass new laws. I’d bet that if I went through the bills introduced by all 163 state reps, I would find that every one of them introduced a bill this year that I think is silly, useless, or worse — although I also think some of them are doing a number of good things this year.
It is human nature to want to act when given a role. For elected officials, that means offering laws to justify their salaries, etc. Too many people in office means too many new proposals and too many people with a say about my life. If Missouri’s legislature met less frequently, for shorter sessions, and received lower salaries (like New Hampshire’s state house), I might change my mind about the number.
Of course, one might wonder why the state’s Democrats are doing this now, because they could have done it at any time when they had several decades of total legislative power. Ultimately, though, I don’t really care. This is about going forward, not casting blame backward. I hope Missourians give this a close look.