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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Monday, October 02, 2006

A One-House Legislature?

[In the October 1, 2006 Clarion-Ledger, a letter-writer named Margaret Nicholas said, "[W]e do not need a 174-member Legislature. Half that number and a unicameral group would be sufficient in a state with such a small population. Think of the money, time, effort that would be saved!"

Since this question of the size of the Mississippi legislature keeps recurring, I am posting here a "golden oldie." This letter appeared in The Clarion-Ledger on January 14, 2002.]

Bob Barnett of Brandon presented some interesting ideas on our legislature, the most powerful branch of state government ("Legislature needs these reforms," Oct. 5, 2001).

The one-member-per-county concept won't fly, as the U. S. Supreme Court has mandated that legislatures be apportioned on the basis of population.

We definitely don't need 52 senators and 122 representatives, however. California, with almost 12 times our population, has 40 senators and 80 assembly members.

Will career politicians support something which may cost them their jobs? The phrase "slim and none" comes to mind.

We had every-other-year legislative sessions until 1970. There were frequent special sessions in the off years, and it was believed that annual sessions would reduce the number of special sessions. (How's that working out?)

The one-house legislature is a really bad notion, mainly because it would be easier to pass laws. The U. S. Constitution gave us a two-house Congress, and 49 states (all but Nebraska) followed with two-house legislatures.

If one house passes a bad bill, the other house can stop it. If the two bodies pass contrasting versions of the same bill, they have to reconcile their differences before sending the measure to the governor. This allows for more discussion and consideration.

The most efficient government is a dictatorship. Our government, with its system of checks and balances, was designed to be inefficient, making it nearly impossible for a tyrant to seize control of it.


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