Senator George Norris, Republican from Nebraska, the One House Legislature

Two problems were evident to Senator Norris as he viewed governmental operations at various levels.

The bicameral legislature is proper  in Washington, DC  since there is a sharp division between daily nitty gritty operations in the House and policy making in the Senate.  The two houses obviously balance population with the sovereignty of each state.  This arrangement is just not relevant to state government.  The 1962 Supreme Court decision, Baker vs. Carr, mandates the all states must apportion both houses on the basis of population anyway.  The two houses then resolve any differences through a conference committee.  This committee is not open to the public. The deals involved are secretive and often slimy.

Another problem was the excessive partisanship that resulted from the major political parties.  George Norris  became a Republican because  of Abraham Lincoln.  Republicans  represented the honest frontier virtues.  On the hand, the Democratic Party to him was a coalition of corrupt city governments in the North and a racist Klan dominated South.   As time wore on, Norris realized that one party was as bad as another.  Political Parties were barriers between the government and citizens.   Norris had no base within the Republican Party in Nebraska.

In 1914 he began a 22 year effort for a Unicameral House for Nebraska.   He wanted to keep the number of legislators small to make pinpointing responsibility easier.  All candidates would be on a nonpartisan  ballot.  Senator Norris repeatedly and tenaciously bucked Democrats, Republicans,  and special interests within Nebraska.  Finally, the voters, in the 1936 election, approved an amendment to the state constitution for a  One House legislator.   They are named Senators, numbering 50, and are on a nonpartisan ballot.  Nebraskans called their state house in Lincoln the Unicameral rather than the legislature. This should be the  standard in all 50 states.


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