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Unicameralism

From Academic Kids

Unicameralism is the practice of having only one legislative or parliamentary chamber. Many countries with unicameral legislatures are often small and homogeneous unitary states and consider an upper house or second chamber unnecessary.

Unicameralists claim that an upper house makes no sense in a democracy, saying that if an upper house is democratic, it simply mirrors the equally democratic lower house, and is therefore unnecessary. They argue that the functions of a second chamber, such as reviewing or revising legislation, can be performed by parliamentary committees, while further constitutional safeguards can be provided by a written Constitution.

In many instances these states had a second chamber and subsequently abolished it. This is either because an elected upper house had duplicated the lower house and obstructed the passing of legislation, like the Landsting in Denmark (abolished in 1953), or because an appointed chamber had proven ineffectual, like the Legislative Council in New Zealand (abolished in 1951).

During the 1930s, the Legislature of the State of Nebraska was reduced from bicameral to unicameral with the 49 members that once comprised that state's Senate. One of the arguments used to sell the idea at the time to Nebraska voters was that by going unicameral, the perceived evils of the "conference committee" process would be eliminated. A "conference committee" consisting of a small number of each body is appointed when the two chambers cannot agree on the same wording of a proposal. This places much power in the hands of only a small number of legislators. Whatever product the "conference committee" comes up with—if indeed any at all—must then be approved in a "take-it-or-leave-it" manner by both chambers.

The American Commonwealth of Puerto Rico currently has a bicameral legislature composed of a Senate (Senado) and a House of Representatives (Camara de Representantes), but a referendum will be held on July 10, 2005, to vote for implementing a unicameral legislature. The supporters of the unicameral system mention the need to control government spending and the elimination of redundant work done by both chambers. The detractors of the unicameral approach mention the double check of laws by both chambers. The thought of a victory for the unicameral approach makes many legislators nervous since legislating is their full-time occupation.

Examples of single chamber parliaments or legislatures

Missing image
Unibicameral_Map.png
Orange: Nations with unicameral parliaments.
Blue: Nations with bicameral parliaments.

Some of the subnational entities with unicameral legislatures include Nebraska in the United States, Queensland in Australia, all of the provinces and territories in Canada, and all of the German Bundesländer (Bavaria having dropped bicameralism in 1999).

In the United Kingdom, the devolved Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly are also unicameral.

Virtually all city legislatures are also unicameral in the sense that the city councils aren't divided into two chambers. Until the turn of the 20th century, bicameral city councils were common in the United States.

See also: Bicameralism, Tricameralism, List of national legislatureses:Unicameralidad fr:Monocamérisme nl:Eenkamersysteem ja:一院制 zh:一院制

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