Reforming Legislatures: Is one House better than two?
During the last decade unicameral proposals have been put forward in fourteen US states. In this paper we propose a theoretical framework casting some lights on the drawbacks of bicameral state legislatures and on the effects of the proposed constitutional reforms. In a setting where lawmakers interact with a lobby through a bargaining process and with voters by means of elections, we show that when time constraints are binding, bicameralism might lead to a decline in the legislator's bargaining power vis-à-vis the lobby and to a reduction in his electoral accountability. On the other hand, when the time constraint is not binding, bicameralism might improve electoral accountability. Hence, arguments suggesting that bicameralism is a panacea against the abuse of power by elected legislators should be taken with due caution and the proposed unicameral reforms in US states may indeed reduce corruption levels among elected representatives.
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