Monday, July 11, 2005


Puerto Rico votes to the throw the bastards out—at least half of them

Yesterday the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico held a referendum on its constitution to decide if the commonwealth should continue with a bicameral (Senate and House of Representatives) legislature or get rid of one or the other institutions. Many Puerto Ricans apparently didn't care, if turnout be the measure, since only 22% showed up. But those who did cared decisively: 84% voted for change.

According to Manuel Ernesto Rivera of the AP,

The results won't bring about immediate change: The referendum directs the legislature to hold another referendum in 2007 that would ask voters to amend the island's constitution and establish a one-house system by 2009.

At the state level only Nebraskans have opted for a unicameral legislature. They made the change in the "radical" 1930s of the Great Depression and have never looked back.

The Puerto Rico Herald commented,

Since that time, many Nebraskans hold up their model as less expensive, less partisan and more accountable to the electorate. The fear at first expressed — that a single legislative body accumulate too much power and would usurp the power of the Governor — has not occurred. Finally it is posited that Nebraska’s legislative process, when compared with other states, produces better law in a more efficient process.

The fact that no other state has made the change seems to indicate that Nebraska is alone in its admiration of a unicameral legislature.

It indicates to me that political leaders in other states do not desire a legislature that is "less expensive, less partisan and more accountable to the electorate." Lawyers need work too, you know.

In a recent "op-ed" in Caribbean Business, former PDP governor Rafael Hernández Colón expressed opposition to a unicameral system, although he understands why some Puerto Ricans want to see changes in the current arrangement. "The outlandish behavior of some members of our bicameral Legislature (has) deeply offended Puerto Rican public opinion. The lavish privileges they have vested upon themselves, their waste of time on ceremonial banalities, their insensitivity to the desire of the Puerto Rican people to have a serious, hard-working legislature focused on our real problems has exasperated the public to the extent that it wants to change the Constitution to put the house in order."

The Puerto Rican legislature has certainly taken to American-style democracy, hasn't it?

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