Unicameralism

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Unicameralism (from uni- "one" + Latin camera "chamber") is a type of legislature, which consists of one house or assembly, that legislates and votes as one. [1]

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Unicameral legislatures exist when there is no widely perceived need for multicameralism (two or more chambers). Many multicameral legislatures were created to give separate voices to different sectors of society. Multiple houses allowed, for example, for a guaranteed representation of different social classes (as in the Parliament of the United Kingdom or the French States-General). Sometimes, as in New Zealand and Denmark, unicameralism comes about through the abolition of one of two bicameral 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 from the beginning.

Rationale for unicameralism and criticism

The principal advantage of a unicameral system is more efficient lawmaking, as the legislative process is simpler and there is no possibility of deadlock between two chambers. Proponents of unicameralism have also argued that it reduces costs, even if the number of legislators stays the same, since there are fewer institutions to maintain and support financially and that it is more democratic. Proponents of bicameral legislatures say that having two legislative chambers offers the opportunity to re-debate and correct errors in either chamber in parallel, and in some cases to introduce legislation in either chamber.

The main weakness of a unicameral system can be seen as potential 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[ specify ] may not be adequately represented by the elected singular body.

List of unicameral legislatures

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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".

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 Macao, 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 Northern Ireland Assembly and the London Assembly are also unicameral.

National (UN member states and observers)

Federal

Unitary

Africa
Asia
Europe
North America
Oceania
South America

Territorial

State parliaments with limited recognition

Subnational

Federations

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

Devolved governments

Others

List of historical unicameral legislatures

National

Subnational

Other

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 parliamentary system (1973-1981) and a semi-presidential system (1981-1986) form of government.

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 President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. [3] 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. [4] 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. [5]

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

Unicameralism in the United States

The Nebraska Legislature (also called the Unicameral) is the supreme legislative body of the state of Nebraska and the only unicameral state legislature in the United States. Its members are called "senators", as it was originally the upper house of a bicameral legislature before the Nebraska House of Representatives dissolved in 1937. The legislature is also notable for being nonpartisan and officially recognizes no party affiliation, making Nebraska unique among U.S. states. With 49 members, it is also the smallest legislature of any U.S. state.

A 2018 study found that efforts to adopt unicameralism in Ohio and Missouri failed due to rural opposition. [6] There was a fear in rural communities that unicameralism would diminish their influence in state government. [6]

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 as 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 chamber. [7] 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 these 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%). [8] 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. [9]

Because of legislative gridlock in 2009, former Congressman Rick Lazio, a prospective candidate for governor, has proposed that New York adopt unicameralism. [10]

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. [11]

Notes

  1. The Bundestag is technically the unicameral parliament of Germany, since the Bundesrat is not defined as a chamber of the legislature, but a completely separate legislative institution according to the Basic Law (German constitution).
  2. Geographically a part of Asia but geopolitically a part of Europe.
  3. 1 2 3 Transcontinental country.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parliament</span> Legislative body of government

In modern politics, and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: representing the electorate, making laws, and overseeing the government via hearings and inquiries. The term is similar to the idea of a senate, synod or congress and is commonly used in countries that are current or former monarchies. Some contexts restrict the use of the word parliament to parliamentary systems, although it is also used to describe the legislature in some presidential systems, even where it is not in the official name.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Congress</span> Formal meeting of representatives of different countries, states, organizations, etc.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Senate</span> Upper house 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 considered wiser and more experienced members of the society or ruling class. However the Roman Senate was not the ancestor or predecessor of modern parliamentarism in any sense, because the Roman senate was not a legislative body.

A member of parliament (MP) is the representative in parliament of the people who live in their electoral district. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this term refers only to members of the lower house since upper house members often have a different title. The terms congressman/congresswoman or deputy are equivalent terms used in other jurisdictions. The term parliamentarian is also sometimes used for members of parliament, but this may also be used to refer to unelected government officials with specific roles in a parliament and other expert advisers on parliamentary procedure such as the Senate Parliamentarian in the United States. The term is also used to the characteristic of performing the duties of a member of a legislature, for example: "The two party leaders often disagreed on issues, but both were excellent parliamentarians and cooperated to get many good things done."

Bicameralism is a type of legislature, one divided into two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses, known as a bicameral legislature. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a single group. As of 2015, about 40% of world's national legislatures are bicameral, and about 60% are unicameral.

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

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

Tricameralism is the practice of having three legislative or parliamentary chambers. It is contrasted with unicameralism and bicameralism, each of which is far more common.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Speaker (politics)</span> Presiding officer of a national assembly, 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Landtag</span> German and Austrian state legislature

A Landtag is generally the legislative assembly or parliament of a federated state or other subnational self-governing entity in German-speaking nations. It is usually a unicameral assembly exercising legislative competence in non-federal matters.

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.

A state government is the government that controls a subdivision of a country 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) is a representative elected by the voters of a constituency to a legislative assembly. Most often, the term refers to a subnational assembly such as that of a state, province, or territory of a country. Still, in a few instances, it refers to a national legislature.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Multicameralism</span> Legislature with three or more chambers

In contrast to unicameralism, and bicameralism, multicameralism is the condition in which a legislature is divided into more than two deliberative assemblies, which are commonly called "chambers" or "houses". This usually includes tricameralism with three chambers, but can also describe a system with any amount more. The word "multicameral" can also relate in other ways to its literal meaning of "many chambered" with use in science or biology.

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. author., Lanham, Url, 1918-1999 (2018). The insects. ISBN   978-81-89729-42-4. OCLC   1003201754.{{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  2. Reuter, Konrad (2003). "Zweite Kammer?". Bundesrat und Bundesstaat: Der Bundesrat der Bundesrepublik Deutschland(PDF) (in German) (12th ed.). Berlin: Direktor des Bundesrates. p. 50. ISBN 3-923706-22-7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-28. Retrieved 2007-01-04. Im Ausland wird ein solches parlamentarisches System im Allgemeinen als Zweikammer- System bezeichnet. Für Bundestag und Bundesrat ist dagegen eine gemeinsame Bezeichnung nicht allgemein üblich, und es ist sogar umstritten, ob der Bundesrat eine Zweite Kammer ist. (English: Abroad, such a parliamentary system is in general called a bicameral one. For Bundestag and Bundesrat such a common designation is not usual and it is even contentious whether the Bundesrat is a second chamber at all.)
  3. "Constitutional Commission proposals". Concom.ph. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  4. Softrigger Interactive (2008-02-25). "Philippines : Gov.Ph : About the Philippines". Archived from the original on February 25, 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  5. "Why Change?". Concom.ph. Archived from the original on 2006-08-18. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  6. 1 2 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. S2CID   150363451.
  7. "One People – One House". News.minnesota.publicradio.org. 1999-04-29. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  8. "Referéndum sobre el Sistema Cameral". Comisión Estatal de Elecciones de Puerto Rico. 2005-07-10.
  9. "RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Unicameral Legislature" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  10. One for All, Rick Lazio, New York Times, July 14, 2009
  11. "Avalon Project - Confederate States of America - Constitution for the Provisional Government". avalon.law.yale.edu.