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All over the local news here in Central Illinois a few days ago, all I heard was a bunch of whining and moaning from the local news anchors about how much taxpayer money is being spent on a special session of the Illinois General Assembly because State House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) and State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) can't agree on legislation to fix Illinois's badly underfunded pension system.

The Illinois General Assembly is basically controlled by two different Democratic Parties...the Democratic rank-and-file in the state house, is, on average, considerably more conservative than the Democratic rank-and-file in the state senate. The fact that the marriage equality bill passed the state senate comfortably but didn't even come to a vote in the state house is the strongest indicator of that.

Personally, I think the idea of a bicameral state legislature is badly outdated, since the 1964 Reynolds v. Sims U.S. Supreme Court decision required that, if a state has a bicameral state legislature, both of its chambers must be based on principle of one person, one vote.

For a state legislature to consist of two houses, both based on the principle of one person, one vote, is, in my opinion, redundant. Currently, only Nebraska has a unicameral, or one house, state legislature, and the last major push for a unicameral legislature in another state was in Minnesota back in the late 1990's.

Here's what I'd like to see in Illinois...a unicameral Illinois General Assembly consisting of a single, 238-member, part-time chamber. The Illinois Unicameral, as I like to call this proposal, would be presided over by the lieutenant governor, who would have power to break ties and appoint chairpersons of state legislative committees, who would not be able to serve as a member of the legislature and as a committee chair simultaneously and would have tie-breaking vote powers over their committees. The Illinois Unicameral would have the power to pass laws (simple majority), propose state constitutional amendments (simple majority), pass the state budget (absolute majority), discipline and expel its own members (2/3 majority for expulsion, simple majority for other disciplinary action), impeach and remove the governor and other public officials (absolute majority to impeach, 2/3 majority to remove, impeachment vote and trial to remove cannot be held on same day), confirm gubernatorial and other state legislative appointments (simple majority for lieutenant gubernatorial appointments of legislative committee chairs, 3/5 majority for all others).

Members of the Illinois Unicameral would be elected to either 2-year or 4-year terms. Members elected from odd-numbered districts would be elected to 2-year terms in the first general election following redistricting (i.e., in years whose last digit is 2), while those elected from even-numbered districts would be elected to 4-year terms in the first general election following redistricting. All members would then be elected to 4-year terms, until the fifth general election following redistricting (i.e., in years whose last digit is 0), in which those elected from even-numbered districts would be elected to 2-year terms. This is to stagger the state legislative elections so that half of the seats of the Illinois Unicameral is up for election every two years, except for the first general election after redistricting, in which the all of the seats of the Illinois Unicameral is up for election. Members of the Illinois Unicameral who are in party leadership positions (majority leader, minority leader, majority committee ranking member, minority committee ranking member, etc.) would be referred to as state senators, whereas members who are not in any leadership position within their party would be referred to as state representatives. All members of the Illinois Unicameral would be collectively referred to as state legislators.

This is the first time that I've been able to say that I voted the wrong way in an election, but I regret voting no on a state constitutional convention back in 2008, when we then could have pushed for a new state constitution authorizing a unicameral Illinois General Assembly then. The next vote that would allow for a state constitutional convention, and, therefore, allowing us to make a serious push for an unicameral Illinois General Assembly, is currently scheduled for 2028, which is 15 years away.

Turning the Illinois General Assembly into a unicameral legislature isn't going to fix all of our state's problems by any means, but, at the same time, the fact that Illinois and 48 other states have bicameral legislatures is unnecessary, outdated, and just plain redundant.

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