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Reforming Legislatures: Is one House better than two?

  • Giovanni Facchini
  • Cecilia Testa

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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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2659.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2659
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  1. Stephen Coate & Timothy Besley, 2000. "Elected versus Appointed Regulators: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7579, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Muthoo, Abhinay & Shepsle, Kenneth, 2007. "The Constitutional Choice of Bicameralism," MPRA Paper 5825, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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  7. Levmore, Saul, 1992. "Bicameralism: When are two decisions better than one?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 145-162, June.
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  12. Bradbury, John Charles & Crain, W. Mark, 2001. "Legislative organization and government spending: cross-country evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 309-325, December.
  13. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel & Luis Rayo, 2006. "The Power of the Last Word in Legislative Policy Making," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1161-1190, 09.
  14. Heller, William B, 2001. "Political Denials: The Policy Effect of Intercameral Partisan Differences in Bicameral Parliamentary Systems," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 34-61, April.
  15. Testa, Cecilia, 2010. "Bicameralism and corruption," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 181-198, February.
  16. Gene Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1994. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," NBER Working Papers 4877, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Daniel Diermeier & Hulya Eraslan & Antonio Merlo, 2003. "A Structural Model of Government Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(1), pages 27-70, January.
  18. Poole, Keith T. & Rosenthal, Howard, 1996. "Are legislators ideologues or the agents of constituents?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 707-717, April.
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