Don't get too comfy in those seats, Pennsylvania lawmakers.

If House Speaker Sam Smith gets his way, they won't be there forever.

The Jefferson County Republican has reintroduced legislation that would shrink the size of the General Assembly from 253 to 203 by eliminating 50 seats in the House.

It's the right move for Pennsylvania, which has the largest full-time Legislature in the country, one that cost us $34 million in salaries and benefits during the 2011-12 session -- not including $7 million in travel costs and per diems.

Those numbers are from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which analyzed Smith's proposal and estimated it would save taxpayers $8.2 million.

That sounds good enough, but Smith said his bill isn't really about saving money; it's about making the Legislature more efficient.

Believe it or not, spending an arm and a leg for the largest full-time governing body -- with the largest staff -- doesn't necessarily translate into a well-oiled lawmaking machine.

Of the 5,641 bills legislators filed last session, just 373 of them -- or 6.6 percent -- became laws, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's analysis.

Yes, as the grand jury that investigated the Bonusgate corruption scandal noted a few years back, our Legislature is "irretrievably broken and in desperate need of systemic change."

So why can't we fix it?


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In almost every session in recent years, one lawmaker or another introduces a bill to scale back the size of the Legislature, and every time it fails.

Smith sponsored legislation last year that would have culled 50 seats from the House and 12 from the Senate. It looked like it had a shot, too, clearing the House with overwhelming support.

Yet it died in the Senate.

It's important, though, that people like Smith keep trying.

Eventually, enough lawmakers will step up and do the right thing -- even if it means they'll have to find another line of work.

We just wish it were sooner rather than later, because it will be a long process, requiring a constitutional amendment.

That means it has to pass both chambers in consecutive two-year sessions, plus receive the governor's approval each time.

After that, it's put to the voters as a referendum.

But there's still time to have a reduced Legislature in place after the 2020 census -- if lawmakers get off their seats and, well, help move them out the door.