- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 23, 2006

RICHMOND (AP) — A Virginia lawmaker wants to merge the state’s House and Senate to end the bitter feuding that has forced General Assembly sessions into overtime, stymied transportation legislation and created other problems.

Delegate Mark L. Cole, a Northern Virginia Republican, wants to merge the conservative House with the more moderate Senate through a constitutional amendment that would replace the state’s bicameral General Assembly, which dates to 1776.

The impasse over transportation funding this year kept lawmakers in the General Assembly session through eight months.

“It seems that every year we have some sort of standoff,” Mr. Cole said.

A single-chamber General Assembly would still have 140 members, though redistricting would have to be handled differently in 2011. Legislators would serve staggered, four-year terms.

Conservatives and moderates still would clash, but there would be no House-Senate conflicts. There also would be no more House-Senate conference committees, which work out compromises in conflicting versions of legislation.

“You’d make your case, take your vote and whoever has the most votes would win,” Mr. Cole said.

Nebraska is the only state with a unicameral legislature. It switched to that system in 1937. At the time, one complaint was that conference committees did too much work in secret. A small, influential conference committee was also more beholden to lobbyists.

Supporters of a two-chamber legislature say it fits with the concept of checks and balances. One chamber serves to watch over the other.

But Mr. Cole argues, as do Nebraskans, that the governor still has veto power and lawmakers must still answer to voters, so a unicameral legislature would not be unfettered.

“I thought I would just float it out there as an idea, just to start the debate,” Mr. Cole said.



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