Consolidate That Government!

Expected consequence of the mortgage crisis: fewer Americans want second homes. Unexpected consequence: fewer American state legislatures want second houses. Maine’s House of Representatives voted this week to merge itself with the state Senate, creating one unicameral body, potentially saving taxpayers $11 million each two-year legislative session. But the cost savings are secondary, supporters of the plan say, to the real goal of bringing state government into line with modern times. Maine state representative Joseph Wagner called the state Senate a “colonial legacy” of the state’s early days, in which the upper chamber was “a council of [the state’s] wealthiest landowners.” If the plan goes forward, Maine would become only the second state, behind Nebraska, to have a one-chambered legislature. Now for the really important question: can New York State’s comically dysfunctional government be abolished entirely? [%comments]


JohnG

In the 19th century, an upstate farmer in the New York legislature suggested abolishing the entire state government, and replacing it with the board of directors of the New York Central Railroad (cutting out the middlemen).

If proposed today, would Goldman Sachs be a worthy substitute?

Seriously, the bi-cameral legislature in New York serves only one purpose - to allow the GOP (by gerrymandering) to control one house.

frankenduf

had to giggle at the wealthiest landowners running the state government being descibed as a quaint notion- what, functionally, has changed since then?

Kevin

Question: Can any other state rival the dysfunction that is taking place in Albany right now?

Honestly, the Republicans have found a way to control the Senate even when they were voted out! That says something!

Pmac

Honestly, this concerns me. What's next? Will they consolidate the Executive and Legislative branches?

Harlan Stansky

If we can't consolidate here in NY, perhaps we can at least sell tickets.

George

I confess I've never really understood the point of bicameral state legislatures in the 20th-plus Centuries. The U.S. Congress makes some balancing sense, but what are the Senate "districts" in most state legislatures? Counties? Pointless relics of the days when you couldn't take the week off to walk to the state capital.

Oddly, I believe Maine and Nebraska are the only states whose electoral votes aren't winner-take-all.

DonOntario

The Canadian provinces managed to abolish their upper houses in the 19th Century (and the provinces formed after that time never had them), except for Quebec which held out until the 1960s.

Upper houses below the federal level don't make sense to me, unless they are something other than rep-by-pop, like one-rep-per-county, or rep-per-special-interest-group, or life appointments for former politicians or other old, wealthy notables. But those scenarios have been (or would be) declared unconstitutional. An upper house that is like the lower house, with representatives elected from single-member districts, even if there are fewer districts and slightly longer terms, seems almost pointless - abolish them!

An upper house elected with a state-wide district (or a few very populous districts for the largest states) by proportional representation would be worthwhile, insofar as they would actually be significantly different from the lower house and would include some "third" parties, and should be constitutional. But that's unlikely to happen.

I'd love to see several states abolish their senates, and a few try proportional representation senates.

Pmac said "Honestly, this concerns me. What's next? Will they consolidate the Executive and Legislative branches?" That's called a parliamentary system. It works fine - see my comment about the Canadian provinces, above. I'd love to see a few U.S. states try that system, too.

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Kate

@ George (#6): You are right about Maine and Nebraska's electoral votes...although I seem to remember a third state considering chopping up it's electoral votes recently.

As a Maine native, I've got to say I think this is a horrible idea. The less populous and much poorer northern and eastern parts of the state are already very much left out in state politics. Abolishing the state Senate in favor of a single house would likely mean an even further diminished voice in state governance and therefore an increasing disparity in the regional economies and quality of life. (I didn't see any mention in the linked article of how the members of the new house would be apportioned, but my fear is that it would be entirely based on population per county.) I would be interested to see a breakdown of the House vote by represented county.

Bart Gragg | Blue Collar University

What about California's dysfunctional government? The most liberal state with a freedom rating of 47 out of 50? What does that say about us?