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Unicameral Legislature Meets Opposition in Committee

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, February 9, the Senate Government Affairs Committee discussed abolishing the Alabama House of Representatives and just going to unicameral system where the Senate is the only House.

Senate Bill 119 was sponsored by Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose).  Pittman said that the Senate debates bills more than the House does and this would eliminate conference committee once and for all.  The Senate became a proportional house after the US Supreme Court ruled in 1935 that all houses had to be apportioned.

Sen. Pittman said that Nebraska then saw the redundancy with having two apportioned houses representing the same people so they adopted the unicameral model then.  Pittman said that a bill now takes five days to clear both committees and both houses.  This would save the people money.  The bill also gives the governor a three fifths majority to override his veto so that he has a bigger role in the process.  It also eliminates the constitutional position of Lieutenant Governor.  Under his legislation, if the Governor dies or is incapacitated the state treasurer would replace the governor.

Pittman said we have talked for years about our state constitution.  I am for keeping our constitution.

SB119 would be an amendment to the Alabama Constitution and would, if passed by the legislature still require approval by the voters of Alabama.

Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) said, “You are unique in the world I must say.”  “I have signed on with your term limits bill, but a process that is fast is not necessarily a good thing.” Sen. Williams said that now everyone has macro and micro representation in the legislature.  As a Senator “I see things in a broader perspective.”  The representative in the house is more local.  I do not think the best thing is less representation.

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Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) said, “My concern is the lack of details.”  Just as I would not vote for the lottery without knowing clearly where the money is going I would need to clearly understand how this would work.

Sen. Pittman said it is going to be hard to get people to vote to eliminate their own jobs and promised to send links to the other senators explaining how this works in Nebraska.

Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Boaz) said, “I respect that you are reform minded.  Both of us are; but in their infinite wisdom our founders set up the way we do business the way we vette bills.  It would terrify me if we got rid of any of that.”  There are things that we caught in this body that the House did not catch and vice versa.  Legislation that we pass affects the whole State.

Sen. Pittman said that most of the Founders came from unicameral legislatures in the colonies.  The decision to have a bicameral Congress was a compromise rather than an original intent.  “All the provinces in Canada are unicameral.”

Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) said that rules should be more like the Senate rules than the House rules.  “I am all for the savings; but the last thing in the world we want is to make the legislature too efficient.”  At the end of the day there is only two things government can do: take the people’s liberty away by make things they do today illegal and take things away from them.  The Speaker has tremendous authority in the House.  We don’t want that.

Sen. Pittman said that a unicameral system would have extra steps in the process.  A whole extra rail that keeps their eyes on what we do.  I don’t think it is going to pass.

Sen. Brewbaker said, “I do applaud you giving the governor a real veto.”  When we were in the minority, my fellow Republicans were all for it.  Now that we are the majority I can’t find the same support.

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Sen. Williams joked, “Are you going to consider a monarchy next?”

State Senator Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham) asked. “Is this really going to fix the situation or make it better?”

Sen. Pittman said, “I am real excited about the response I am getting from across the State.”

Committee Chairman Holley (R from Elba) asked, what other states have this?

Pittman said, just Nebraska and all the provinces of Canada.

The committee voted to carry over the bill.


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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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