Rep. Mike Simpson (D-MI) has proposed changes to the Michigan legislature that would result in a unicameral system, which, if passed, would make it the second in existence in the US. Simpson’s goal with the reorganization is to create a more transparent, cost-efficient, and trustworthy governing body..
Currently Nebraska is the only state employing a unicameral system and has been using it since 1934. When the system was put into effect in 1937 the Senate was retained, shrinking the body from 133 members to the current 49 Senators. Nebraska also trimmed the number of committees from 61 to 18 and professes to be more efficient, the session running 98 days after the switch, two years before which the session ran 110 days. The structure was switched to cut costs, increase democratic practices, and lessen corruption.
In 1999 Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura suggested a unicameral legislature for his state as well, though many of the objections that led to the proposal were based upon Nebraska’s government. Objections that the goal and purpose of democracy is not efficiency or cost-cutting were voiced alongside the observation that despite the belief that accountability increases with a unicameral system, Nebraska’s citizens are not noticeably more informed or concerned with legislative activity than citizens of states using a bicameral legislature, nor are Nebraska legislators more attuned to citizen interests than legislators from other states. Nebraska’s system has also produced many laws later deemed unconstitutional by its Supreme Court, exposing the reliance on executive veto and judicial review that objectors have pointed to as the result of the loss of checks and balances within a bicameral system.
In January 2007 Senator Mike Friend (District 10) proposed a state constitutional amendment to return Nebraska to a bicameral legislature. His proposal, LR3CA, included a 31 person Senate and a 62 person House but was indefinitely postponed in March of the same year. If this had passed, Senators who would have been unable to run for office again due to term limits would have had the chance to run for the new House of Representatives and escape the effects of term limits.
The majority of state level governments in the United States mimic the federal government with a bicameral system consisting of the House and the Senate to better represent constituencies. Unicameral systems are typically seen in local legislatures such as counties, cities, or other subdivisions of states; these smaller governments tend to be more limited in their lawmaking powers than their federal and state equivalents. One argument made by unicameralists is that committees can provide the same check and review process on legislation that a second house would contribute and therefore the second legislative body is unnecessary.
Sources: http://www.leg.state.mn.us/LRL/Issues/Uni.asp, http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Unicameral, http://www.unicam.state.ne.us/web/public/unicameralism/facts, http://mikesimpson2008.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2008-04-11T02%3A31%3A00-04%3A00&max-results=3, http://www.mnnow.org/LEG/ARCHIVES/Issue_Brief_Unicameral_Legislature.htm, http://www.ballot-access.org/2008/03/29/nebraska-senator-wants-to-elect-presidential-electors-at-large/