Unicameral Legislatures

February 9, 1935

Report Outline
Reconsideration of Legislative Structures in the States
Development of Bicameral System in the United States
Bicameral vs. Unicameral Plan for States
State Movement for Single-Branch Legislatures
Cost of Present State Legislatures
Special Focus

Reconsideration of Legislative Structures in the States

The Decision of Nebraska voters in a referendum last November to substitute a single chamber for their present two-house legislature has served to reopen the question of legislative organization in state government, and bills contemplating changes in the legislative branch have been introduced in no less than 20 of the 43 state legislatures now in session. Bills proposing establishment of a unicameral system have been offered in 18 states, and in two states—Michigan and Montana—a reduction in membership is proposed.

By the terms of the constitutional amendment adopted in Nebraska a unicameral legislature composed of not fewer than 30 nor more than 50 members, to be nominated and elected on a nonpartisan ballot for a two-year term, will convene on January 2, 1937. During the Nebraska campaign, Senator George W. Norris, who has been advocating the adoption of the unicameral plan since 1920, stated his belief that such a system would be more economical and efficient than the present bicameral scheme; that it would simplify the legislative process and definitely locate responsibility and would result in the election of better men to state legislatures.

A nation-wide poll conducted during the autumn of 1934 by the American Legislators' Association to determine the public attitude toward the establishment of unicameral legislatures showed that, of the nearly 5,000 persons voting, 41 per cent favored the single-chamber system and 59 per cent opposed it, Results of the poll, expressed in percentages, were as follows:

Group Majority Opposing: For one-house legislatures Against one-house legislatures
U. S. Representatives 24% 76%
U. 8. Senators. 31 69
State Representatives 34 66
State Senators. 24 76
Nebraska Representatives. 20 80
Nebraska Senators… 38 62
American Bankers Association. 31 69
Business Executives. 45 55
Newspaper Editors… 41 59
American Bar Association. 34 66
Majority Favoring:    
Governmental Research Association 82 18
American Political Science Association 85 15
American Federation of Labor. 64 36
League of Women Voters… 73 27
American Association of University Women 52 48
  41% 59%

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