Saturday, May 2, 2009



Deliberative process. In a unicameral legislature, committees and members are able to proceed slowly and carefully, because they are relieved of the need to move legislation through a cumbersome legislative process involving two houses. By virtue of the directness and simplicity of its process, a unicameral legislature has the time to give the ideas of legislators and citizens a more thorough airing and a more exacting consideration than is possible in the accelerated, duplicate proceedings of a bicameral legislature.

Bicameral legislatures, in contrast, are notorious for scurry. To get bills through time-wasting, duplicate proceedings in two houses and conference committees, the bicameral legislature is forced to take shortcuts and use fast-track procedures that condense committee and floor debate and eliminate opportunities for deliberation and reflection.

Despite the fast-track procedures used by bicameral legislatures, most bills still bog down in inter-house wrangling. As a result, decisions are not made until the very end of the session, when the most complex and important measures are shuttled rapidly from house to house with little time for comprehension or careful consideration.

Quality assurance and the second house. Experience does not support the bicameralist assertion that one house checks and corrects the actions of the other house. On the contrary, the presence of a second house encourages and enables legislative carelessness--as when one house hastily accepts the actions of the other house on faith, without independent evaluation, or passes ill-conceived legislation, relying on the other house to correct or reject it. A single-house legislature, in contrast, knowing that its decisions are final, acts only with great care and diligence.

Procedural efficiency. Owing to the simplicity and directness of its process, a unicameral legislature is able to act on legislation more efficiently. A successful bill takes a straightforward path from committee to the floor to the governor. In a bicameral legislature, a successful bill must go through duplicate committee hearings and floor debates in the two houses, then often through a conference committee, and again through two more floor debates. This cumbersome, redundant procedure is inherently wasteful and inefficient; it confers no benefit commensurate with the time and energy it consumes.

Cost of the legislature. A unicameral legislature is smaller and less costly to operate.** There are fewer legislators and employees to pay and no duplication of bills, committees, and meetings. Nebraska's first unicameral legislature in 1937 reduced the cost of legislative operations by about one-half. . The unicameral system in Nebraska allows that state to hold down the cost of legislative operations without compromising the capability of the legislature or the resources available to individual legislators.


** A unicameral legislature as proposed in LD 1424 (105 members ) would save the state of Maine roughly $15 million over a biennium budget. (See attached breakdowns.)

1 comment:

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