The Much-Smarter-than-Unicameral Legislative Reform Plan II

I’m not sure if the idea put forth by potential Lieutenant Governor candidate Robert Tingle (h/t Steve Peoples) for reducing the size of the legislature involves eliminating an entire chamber as does Patrick Lynch’s, but for fans of unicameralism for the State of Rhode Island, allow me to counter with the concise rationale for a bicameral legislature offered by either James Madison or Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 51

In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit.
As has been noted before here at Anchor Rising, the spirit of this check is not fully implemented in Rhode Island state government, as the modes of election and the principles of action of our House and Senate are nearly, if not exactly, identical.
This is, of course, a flaw that would be fixed with the alternative legislative plan outlined here, which re-differentiates the roles of the RI House and the RI Senate, while increasing accountability to the voters (with annual elections for Representatives) and weakening Federal dominance over state elections (with elections in odd-numbered years).

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13 years ago

“by different modes of election and different principles of action” You’re correct that that is our Senate’s main impairment.* Having the Senate operate on two-year cycles along with the House -seems- like a good idea, but in practice it makes the body just as beholden to the issue-of-the-day and short-term fixes as the House. I would like to see at least four year terms in the Senate, with elections held on non-presidential election years. Ideally, Senate seats in Rhode Island would be held for six years, with elections in rotation like our congress is. The senate should be ‘where the buck stops’ on short-sighted legislation. We can’t get there if they can only see two years ahead of them. Also, if those reforms are made, it would be nice to have Senate rules de-emphasize the role of leadership and the President. In a more calm, stable organization, there should be plenty of room to allow more members (minority leader, once a month; committee chairs once a session?) to have access to place items on the schedule. Also, ‘suspension of the rules’ that prevent proper public discourse and input should automatically trigger some sort of punishment for Senators. I don;t know what it would be… Maybe not allowing whoever made the motion to be a chair or vice-chair for the next term. Finally, a reasonable Senate President would start a tradition of leaving the bills passed by the House ‘in waiting’ for several business days to allow for the public to digest (and disarm) what happens during those late-night marathon sessions. Let the Senate have their own marathon the following week, there’s no good reason for legislation to bounce through two committees and two floors in a matter of hours. * Full disclosure: I’m filed to run for State Senate this… Read more »

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