Unicameralism

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In government, unicameralism (Latin uni, one + camera, chamber) is the practice of having one legislative or parliamentary chamber. Thus, a unicameral parliament or unicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of one chamber or house.

Contents

Concept

Unicameral legislatures exist when there is no widely perceived need for multicameralism. Many multicameral legislatures were created to give separate voices to different sectors of society. Multiple chambers allowed for guaranteed representation of different social classes (as in the Parliament of the United Kingdom or the French States-General), ethnic or regional interests, or subunits of a federation. Where these factors are unimportant, in unitary states with limited regional autonomy, unicameralism often prevails. Sometimes, as in New Zealand and Denmark, this comes about through the abolition of one of the two chambers, or, as in Sweden, through the merger of the two chambers into a single one, while in others a second chamber has never existed.

The principal advantage of a unicameral system is more efficient lawmaking, as the legislative process is simpler and there is no possibility of deadlock. Proponents of unicameralism have also argued that it reduces costs, even if the number of legislators stay the same, since there are fewer institutions to maintain and support it. However bicameral legislatures offer the opportunity to debate and correct errors in either chamber in parallel, and in some cases to introduce legislation in either chamber. Bicameral legislatures often make provision for experts to participate in lawmaking without being professional politicians.

The main weakness of a unicameral system can be seen as the lack of restraint on the majority, particularly noticeable in parliamentary systems where the leaders of the parliamentary majority also dominate the executive. There is also the risk that important sectors of society may not be adequately represented.

List of unicameral legislatures

Nations with a bicameral legislature.
Nations with a unicameral legislature.
Nations with a unicameral legislature and an advisory body.
Nations with no legislature. Unibicameral Map.svg
  Nations with a bicameral legislature.
  Nations with a unicameral legislature.
  Nations with a unicameral legislature and an advisory body.
  Nations with no legislature.

Approximately half of the world's sovereign states are currently unicameral. The People's Republic of China is somewhat in between, with a legislature and a formal advisory body. China has a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference which meets alongside the National People's Congress, in many respects an advisory "upper house", so it is in reality neither bicameral nor fully unicameral.

Many subnational entities have unicameral legislatures. These include the state of Nebraska and territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands in the United States, the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, the Australian state of Queensland as well as the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, a majority of the provinces of Argentina, all of the provinces and territories in Canada, all of the German states, all of the regions of Italy, all of the Spanish autonomous communities, both the autonomous regions of Portugal, most of the states and union territories of India and all of the states of Brazil. In the United Kingdom, the devolved Scottish Parliament, the Senedd Cymru, the London Assembly, and Northern Ireland Assembly are also unicameral.

National

Federal

Unitary

Territorial

Subnational

Federations

Provincial legislatures in Argentina Legislaturas provinciales de Argentina.png
Provincial legislatures in Argentina

Devolved governments

Other

List of historical unicameral legislatures

National

Subnational

Unicameralism in the United States

Within U.S. states, Nebraska is currently the only state with a unicameral legislature; after a statewide vote, it changed from bicameral to unicameral in 1937. [1] [2] A 2018 study found that efforts to adopt unicameralism in Ohio and Missouri failed due to rural opposition. [2] There was a fear in rural communities that unicameralism would diminish their influence in state government. [2]

Local government legislatures of counties, cities, or other political subdivisions within states are usually unicameral and have limited lawmaking powers compared to their state and federal counterparts.

Some of the 13 colonies which became independent, such has Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Hampshire had initially introduced strong unicameral legislature and (relatively) less powerful governors with no veto power. Pennsylvania's constitution lasted only 14 years. In 1790, conservatives gained power in the state legislature, called a new constitutional convention, and rewrote the constitution. The new constitution substantially reduced universal male suffrage, gave the governor veto power and patronage appointment authority, and added an upper house with substantial wealth qualifications to the unicameral legislature. Thomas Paine called it a constitution unworthy of America.

In 1999, Governor Jesse Ventura proposed converting the Minnesota Legislature into a single unicameral chamber. [3] Although debated, the idea was never adopted.

Seven U.S. states, Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington, effectively have two-house unicamerals.

In those states, districts in the upper house and the lower house are combined into a single constituency, a practice known as nesting.

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico held a non-binding referendum in 2005. Voters approved changing its Legislative Assembly to a unicameral body by 456,267 votes in favor (83.7%) versus 88,720 against (16.3%). [4] If both the territory's House of Representatives and Senate had approved by a 23 vote the specific amendments to the Puerto Rico Constitution that are required for the change to a unicameral legislature, another referendum would have been held in the territory to approve such amendments. If those constitutional changes had been approved, Puerto Rico could have switched to a unicameral legislature as early as 2015.

On June 9, 2009, the Maine House of Representatives voted to form a unicameral legislature, but the measure did not pass the Senate. [5]

Because of legislative gridlock in 2009, former Congressman Rick Lazio, a prospective candidate for governor, has proposed that New York adopt unicameralism. [6]

The United States as a whole was subject to a unicameral Congress during the years 1781–1788, when the Articles of Confederation were in effect. The Confederate States of America, pursuant to its Provisional Constitution, in effect from February 8, 1861, to February 22, 1862, was governed by a unicameral Congress. [7]

Unicameralism in the Philippines

Though the current Congress of the Philippines is bicameral, the country experienced unicameralism in 1898 and 1899 (during the First Philippine Republic), from 1935 to 1941 ( the Commonwealth era) and from 1943 to 1944 (during the Japanese occupation). Under the 1973 Constitution, the legislative body was called Batasang Pambansa, which functioned also a unicameral legislature within a semi-presidential system form of government until 1986.

The ongoing process of amending or revising the current Constitution and form of government is popularly known as Charter Change. A shift to a unicameral parliament was included in the proposals of the constitutional commission created by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. [8] Unlike in the United States, senators in the Senate of the Philippines are elected not per district and state but nationally; the Philippines is a unitary state. [9] The Philippine government's decision-making process, relative to the United States, is more rigid, highly centralised, much slower and susceptible to political gridlock. As a result, the trend for unicameralism as well as other political system reforms are more contentious in the Philippines. [10]

While Congress is bicameral, all local legislatures are unicameral: the ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Boards), Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Councils), Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Councils), Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Councils) and the Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Councils).

Related Research Articles

A congress is a formal meeting of the representatives of different countries, constituent states, organizations, trade unions, political parties or other groups. The term originated in Late Middle English to denote an encounter during battle, from the Latin congressus.

Senate type of legislative body, often the upper house or chamber of a bicameral legislature

A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a bicameral legislature. The name comes from the ancient Roman Senate, so-called as an assembly of the senior and therefore allegedly wiser and more experienced members of the society or ruling class. Thus, the literal meaning of the word "senate" is Assembly of Elders.

A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the voters to a parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this category includes specifically members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title. Member of Congress is an equivalent term in other jurisdictions.

A bicameral legislature has legislators in two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a single group, and from some legislatures that have three or more separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. As of 2015, fewer than half the world's national legislatures are bicameral.

Legislative assembly is the name given in some countries to either a legislature, or to one of its houses.

Congress of the Philippines National legislature of the Philippines

Congress of the Philippines is the national legislature of the Philippines. It is a bicameral body consisting of the Senate, and the House of Representatives, although colloquially, the term "Congress" commonly refers to just the latter.

House of Representatives of the Philippines Lower house of the Congress of the Philippines

The House of Representatives of the Philippines is the lower house of the Congress of the Philippines. It is commonly referred to as Congress and informally referred to as the Cámara or Kamara.

The chamber of deputies is the lower house in many bicameral legislatures and the sole house in some unicameral legislatures.

Speaker (politics) presiding officer of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body

The speaker of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body, is its presiding officer, or the chair. The title was first used in 1377 in England.

An upper house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house. The house formally designated as the upper house is usually smaller and often has more restricted power than the lower house. A legislature composed of only one house is described as unicameral.

Parliaments of the Australian states and territories Subnational legislature in Australia

The Parliaments of the Australian states and territories are legislative bodies within the federal framework of the Commonwealth of Australia.

A state government is the government of a country subdivision in a federal form of government, which shares political power with the federal or national government. A state government may have some level of political autonomy, or be subject to the direct control of the federal government. This relationship may be defined by a constitution.

A Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), or a Member of the Legislature (ML), is a representative elected by the voters of a constituency to the legislature or legislative assembly of a sub-national jurisdiction.

National Assembly of Peoples Power legislative parliament of Cuba

The National Assembly of People's Power is the legislative parliament of the Republic of Cuba and the supreme body of State power. Its members are elected from multi-member electoral districts for a term of five years. The Assembly's current President is Esteban Lazo Hernández. The assembly meets twice a year. Between sessions it is represented by the 31 members Council of State. The most recent elections were held on 11 March 2018.

The legislative districts of the Philippines are the divisions of the Philippines' provinces and cities for representation in the various legislative bodies. Congressional districts are for House of Representatives, while there are districts for Sangguniang Panlalawigan, and some Sangguniang Panlungsod. For purposes of representation, the Senate, most Sangguniang Panlungsod, Sangguniang Bayan, Sangguniang Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan are all elected at-large, although there were districts for the Senate from 1916 to 1935.

Electoral districts go by different names depending on the country and the office being elected.

House of Representatives is the name of legislative bodies in many countries and sub-national entitles. In many countries, the House of Representatives is the lower house of a bicameral legislature, with the corresponding upper house often called a "Senate". In some countries, the House of Representatives is the sole chamber of a unicameral legislature.

References

  1. "History of the Nebraska Unicameral". nebraskalegislature.gov. Retrieved 2015-04-17.
  2. 1 2 3 Myers, Adam S. (2018). "The Failed Diffusion of the Unicameral State Legislature, 1934–1944". Studies in American Political Development. 32 (2): 217–235. doi:10.1017/S0898588X18000135. ISSN   0898-588X.
  3. "One People – One House". News.minnesota.publicradio.org. 1999-04-29. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  4. "Referéndum sobre el Sistema Cameral". Comisión Estatal de Elecciones de Puerto Rico. 2005-07-10.
  5. "RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Unicameral Legislature" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  6. One for All, Rick Lazio, New York Times, July 14, 2009
  7. "Avalon Project - Confederate States of America - Constitution for the Provisional Government". avalon.law.yale.edu.
  8. "Constitutional Commission proposals". Concom.ph. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  9. Softrigger Interactive (2008-02-25). "Philippines : Gov.Ph : About the Philippines". Archived from the original on February 25, 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  10. "citation was not true it needs more references?". Concom.ph. Retrieved 2013-11-26.