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Legislator offers a way to really trim government

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: September 15, 2011

STATE Rep. Gary Banz wants to make state government smaller — literally. Banz, R-Midwest City, is proposing that the membership of the Legislature be reduced by about 10 percent, through a vote of the people.

We can hear the complaints already from residents who would feel slighted by such a change — not to mention the legislators who would be affected. At the same time, the idea of fewer legislators is likely to be well received by voters who figure the less government, the better.

Oklahomans haven't been shy in the past about knocking lawmakers down a peg. In the 1990s, we became the first state to approve term limits. We also voted to restrict the Legislature's ability to raise taxes, and to shorten the legislative session. Could a smaller Legislature be next?

Presently there are 48 senators and 101 House members representing Oklahoma's 3.7 million people. Having fewer members wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing — indeed Oklahoma City's council wards are larger than the city's Senate and House districts. The present legislative makeup made more sense in the early 20th century when Oklahoma became a state. It's debatable whether it's necessary now, especially given how technology has enhanced communication between constituents and elected officials.

Oklahoma's representation is similar to states of comparable size and population. Arkansas (2.9 million residents) has 35 senators, 100 House members. The legislature in Iowa (3.05 million) comprises 50 senators and 100 representatives. In Kansas (2.8 million), the breakdown is 40 and 125, respectively.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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