The Need for a Unicameral Legislature

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The Need for a Unicameral Legislature

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Institution

Introduction

The legislative branch of the government is one of the most crucial and fundamental arms as far as the functioning of the government is concerned. It is a deliberative assembly that (has the powers to) is charged with the responsibility of crafting laws, repealing, as well as amending them. IT goes without saying that the legislature is quite different in different countries with some of them having only one house, while the others have two houses of representatives. The United States in general comes with a bicameral legislature including the Senate and the House of Representatives, both of which share the same amount of power. The Senate comes with an equal number of members representing every constituent state while the number of members in the House of Representatives is in line with the population of every state. Nevertheless, recent times have seen increased calls for some states to eliminate the bicameral legislature and have a unicameral one. This is the case of Mathews and Paul, who argue that California needs a unicameral legislature rather than a bicameral system. While there may be conflicting views on this debate, I agree that a unicameral legislature is better and more suitable for California than the bicameral one.

Mathews and Paul state that the bicameral system has outlived its time especially considering that the system was borrowed from the English system. In this regard, rather than the upper house spending most of its time deliberating on serious issues, the term limits on senators have forced them to be using the last two years of their terms trying to grab an open Assembly seat or in a county board of advisors. They underline the fact that the Bicameral System runs counter to democracy considering that it gives them numerous dark corners on which they can kill bills that are not appealing to them. In fact, they have incredible opportunities of making clandestine last minute “gut and amend” maneuvers in which noncontroversial bills become special interest bonanzas. In bicameral systems, the two houses are always conflicting with each other and sabotaging each other’s bills so as to have an upper hand in politics. This would, however, be solved by unicameralism, as is the case of Nebraska, whose one house legislature dates back to 1937. Having a unicameral legislature would eliminate the enormous costs that come with the maintenance of leadership staffs and separate committees in each chamber, shorten and simplify the process of making legislations, as well as enhance the capacity of the voters to watch over and monitor the activities of their representatives and, therefore, hold them to account for their actions. On the same note, it would allow for enhanced proportionality of representation as the two houses would be merged into a single incorporating 120 members, in which case it would be possible to have a multimember district system with 20 districts, each of which has 6 members. In addition, it would allow for enhanced representation of the people of California especially considering the words of Madison who stated that the enlargement of the number of electors results in the representatives being too little acquainted with the local interests, as well as lesser interests.

Examining the utility of unicameral legislatures over bicameral legislatures necessitates demands that one looks at states that already have a unicameral system and compare it with others that have a bicameral system. Scholars note that unicameral legislatures come with enhanced accountability, as well as procedural openness than bicameral systems (Ross, 2010). Legislators in unicameral systems are significantly more accountable to the voters, thanks to the directness and simplicity of the legislative process that encourages the electorate to pay more attention to the legislative activity, as well as follow and comprehend their representatives’ activities. This forces the legislators to be more alert and accountable as they know that they are being watched unlike the bicameral system where the legislative process’ complexity discourages the electorate from following the actions of their representatives thereby lessening their capacity to hold them accountable (Ross, 2010). This is also seen in the procedural openness where the unicameral systems are significantly more open to public view than bicameral systems. In unicameral systems, representatives make decisions in full view of the public and the media in which case their vote on crucial bills is never masked. This is because they make them in public settings such as the floor or in standing committees. This, however, is not the case in bicameral systems as the fulcrum of legislative decisions is eliminated from the floor and the standing committees to negotiations between the two houses in which a few individuals from both houses and members of varied conference committees from both houses make the decisions in considerable obscurity and privacy (Ross, 2010). The elimination of the decision-making process from public view and the watchful eye of the media means that the process is less accountable than in a unicameral system.

In addition, scholars note that unicameral systems allow for a more effective legislature than bicameral houses. This is especially considering that bicameral legislatures have the legislative authority being divided between the two houses that have a competing set of leaders, committees and members (Ross, 2010). This partitioning of the legislature diminishes its authority, as well as effectiveness especially with regard to dealing with the powers of the executive and the federal government (Miller et al, 1996). However, the unicameral system concentrates the legislative power on leaders and members of a single house who have one rather than competing goals, thereby enhancing independence, prestige, as well as legislative authority. It goes without saying that strong legis.............


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