By Michael Laffey

The recent redistricting fight made me think about why we have an Assembly and a Senate.

I believe historically it was because Senators represented a particular County rather then a legislative district.  The system mirrored the Federal System where States with small populations still get two Senators.  The idea was to give rural counties representation on par with more populous counties.

 A United States Supreme Court decision in 1964 (Reynolds v. Sims) and a New Jersey Supreme Court decision in 1972 (Jackman v. Bodine) that arrangement was found unconstitutional under the one person one vote rule.

As a result the current legislative arrangement was instituted. 

Since the rational for two legislative houses no longer exists why don’t we move to a unicameral or one house legislature?  Nebraska only has one legislative house.

This would save a lot of money and make our government more efficient.

I hope my friends in the legislature don’t take this suggestion personally but I think it is something that deserves consideration.

Posted: April 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Legislature | Tags: , | 6 Comments »

6 Comments on “Unicameral”

  1. Abe said at 1:54 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    This is most interesting and you make a good point. It makes me wonder why such an arrangement would be unconstituional for the state, but not unconstitutional for the country as a whole?

  2. barry said at 6:40 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    Something that is in the U.S. Constitution cannot be ruled unconstitutional, and U.S. Constiturion provuides for 2 Senators from each State regardless of population. The Court given its druthers would have ended the US Senate composition, but their hands were tied.

  3. JCFremont said at 9:02 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    Laffey makes a very good point and highlights another issue where the professional pols (both R and D) are united against the people. No reason to maintain a bicameral legislature in NJ other than to preserve the perks and privileges of the pols. Trim the fat and increase the transparency.

  4. MLaffey said at 9:23 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    Barry is correct the Constitution specifically provides for two Senators from every State.
    It would require a constitutional amendment to change it.
    Further it makes sense at the Federal level.
    When Senators represented whole counties it made sense at the State level too.

    I believe the basis for the courts one person one vote doctrine and it then being applied to oue legislative set up was the equal protection clause.

  5. Justified Right said at 10:35 am on April 12th, 2011:

    Very interesting, Mike.

    I think the purpose of having it the way they do at the federal level is tied to the Sovereignty of each state.

    That doesn’t exist for legislative districts.

    I think you are on to something here.

  6. Gene Baldassari said at 5:41 pm on April 12th, 2011:

    You have my vote for a unicameral legislature. While we are re-writing the NJ constitution, I would also go down to 40 total members of the legislature. And the legislature would meet 2 weeks each year as they do in Texas.