One legislature, nonpartisan

The Hawaii Legislature has 25 senators and 51 representatives. For our small state, do we really need 76 legislators? Are two legislatures more effective than one? And can we afford the doubled costs?

Nebraska’s population is 1,796,619, compared to Hawaii’s population of 1,295,178 (U.S. Census Bureau, 7/1/09). But the Nebraska Legislature has just 49 members.

How does Nebraska do it?

Nebraska has a unicameral legislature, with a single nonpartisan primary election. The top two candidates compete in the general election. Each senator has a 4-year term, with half the seats up for election every two years. It’s worked for over 70 years.

If Hawaii had a nonpartisan legislature, we would see more emphasis on issues, not party affiliation; and more independent candidates might be willing to step forward.

If Hawaii had a unicameral legislature, we would have smaller legislative staffs and budgets, less duplication of proposed bills, and more time for debate.

You’re probably wondering: Will our legislators really vote themselves out of a job? Will Hawaii vote?

Okay, I’m skeptical too. If the legislators won’t do it, we would need to vote for a Constitutional Convention. And a majority of voters opposed it in the last election.

But that’s not the end. If someone is brave enough to call for Constitutional Convention in the next election, and enough people actually vote, we would have the chance to discuss it, debate it, and vote on it.

I think a nonpartisan, unicameral legislature would help Hawaii politics. A two-party system just isn’t working. What do you think?

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