Halfway There In San Juan

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The AP reports that Puerto Rico's voters have overwhelmingly voted to cut its legislature in half.

The ballot initiative, which drew only 22 percent of eligible voters, merely starts the process; another initiative will have to be held in the future to finish the job.

But it's still great to see voters do the right thing.

More here.

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  1. That’s an odd endorsement, Nick. One less hurdle for legislation to pass.

    No cooling saucers for Mr. Gillespie, I guess.

  2. I didn’t go through the article–pesky registration–but it doesn’t look like they’re goin’ unicameral joe.

    …It looks to me like there’s half as many open opportunities for special interests.

  3. Alright! God bless bugmenot! So it is Unicameral.

    …That’s awesome. Still, that means half the opportunities for special interests, and only one instead of two, places for ’em to do it!

  4. Or are they consolidating power into half as many individuals. That might not be so great. But if there revoking half of their government’s powers they can have as many people as they want!

  5. Wouldn’t this mean less representation?

  6. I’m going to echo passingthru. How is less representation and the concentration of power into fewer individuals a good thing?

  7. I don’t claim that bicameralism is a panacea (it obviously isn’t), and unicam seems to work ok for Nebraska. But I’d still rather play it safe and stick with 2 chambers. My biggest concern is that in any legislative chamber the power is inevitably concentrated in the hands of a majority leader and his lackeys rather than dispersed among the members. Sure, not every majority leader is all-powerful, but that’s the trend. So, it’s probably better to have 2 majority leaders sharing power rather than a single majority leader running the whole game.

    I know it’s hardly a panacea, but it seems safer.

  8. I think you guys are missin’ the boat.

    …In a bicameral system you have interests have two complete tracks with multiple opportunities to influence a spending bill. There’s now half as many opprtunities to attach riders, etc.

  9. Tom-

    Point taken, but there has to be a balance. If fewer legislators is always better than why not just elect a single legislator? Fewer might be better in some cases, but only up to a point. Finding the happy medium is tricky.

  10. Streamlining gov’ts ability to pass legislation really isn’t a good idea. I much prefer a bicameral system … more obstacles to hurdle to get things done. True, horrible legislation gets through, but there is quite a bit of wretched policy that gets stomped down.

    By cutting representation your increasing the power of the remaining office holders.

    barf.

  11. Not a colony, not quite a state…
    I say cut ’em loose.

  12. This, to me, seems like a lateral move with respect to liberty. i.e. There is no increased liberty, despite there being fewer people to bribe for special interests, the special interests now have more money with which to bribe fewer people.

    No progress, no regress, just sideways.

  13. Whether they have one legislative house or two, they (and we) really should add another house, Heinlein’s “House of Negatives” or whatever he called it. It can’t pass any legislation, but it can vote to repeal any law by vote of one-third or more of its membership.

  14. I recall one fellow libertarian suggesting that we would be better off with there being one Representative in the House per 10,000 or so people, essentially resulting in a sprawling mass of people in the House. Not only would this help demystify the office, but it might make it significantly harder to get bills passed. It would also likely make it easier for third parties to break into the House.

    On the other hand, it could also gradually result in a more “moderate” mindset in the House, and “moderate” these days tends to push for more, not less, government.

    Just a thought.

  15. NaG-

    I suspect that a giant House would further concentrate power in the hands of a few party leaders. Which, granted, is already the case, but the occasional instances where members of Congress buck the leadership would become even rarer.

    Stevo’s idea is interesting. An institution with the sole power to say ixnay on the illbay might be nice.

  16. I meant to write “An institution whose sole power is to say ixnay…”

  17. It was Robert Heinlein’s idea, actually. Proposed near the end of “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.”

  18. I propose a quadri-cameral legislature, with each house being elected (or selected) under different rules, and having bizarrely overlapping functions – though every bill would have to pass all four, preferably by supermajority. Nothing would ever get done!

  19. If you want an example of how a state with a large number of legislators works, just look at New Hampshire (“The Granite State”). It has four hundred represantatives; that is one for every three thousand people. Its also a cheap legislature; they get an annual salary of $100 plus some perks like free tolls and free use of state parks and the like.

  20. Greetings from the Island of Enchantment:

    I suspect that I am the first commenter to have actually voted in the referendum. I voted to stay bi-cameral but wrote on my ballot that my real preference is for 3 or even 4 chambers.

    I want as much gridlock as we can possibly get.

    If anyone has been following PR politics, they would know that since January, we have had a Legislature and especially a Senate that has been tied up in knots. The governor is of a different praty from the majority party in leg and senate. The legislatures wll not do anything at all for him. There are some other bizarre things going on that get complex to explain. I’ll try if anyone is interested.

    Consequently:

    We have no new budget this year. Both parties wanted spending increases but could (would) not agree so we are recycling the old budget. No new spending.

    Many legislators want a sales tax to replace the excise tax. The sales tax would be 7-9% and would cover a number of things currently exempt. They’ve not been able to move that forward.

    We’ve avoided some horrid appointments for cabinet posts.

    We’ve not gotten other odious laws that pols say they want.

    In short, this has been the best 6 months, politically speaking, of the past 50 years.

    I hope it continues forever.

    A unicameral legislature might be cheaper though nobody has said how many pols would be replaced. One “leader” said he would favor a uni with the same total number as tbe bi.

    My thinking is, paying these folks, even with their $100k/yr salaries, chauffered cars for personal use etc is expensive and grinds my grits. However, it would be really expensive for us if they actually accomplished the things they want to do.

    Remember, gridlock is our (liberal/libertarian/
    minarchist)friend.

    John Henry

  21. Thanks for the info John, I would never have know what was going on down there were it not for you. Now lets all see how we can get our own “house of Negatives”.

  22. “The AP reports that Puerto Rico’s voters have overwhelmingly voted to cut its legislature in half.”

    My reaction to this is the same as my reaction to that crazy mom in Texas who drowned all her kids in a bathtub: how did the last ones in line to hold still while they were waiting to be cut in half?

  23. I was stationed in the Navy during the late ’70s at a little base near Ponce, Puerto Rico. I found the politics of the island to be a bit strange — it seemed like in the political arena there people were constantly at each other’s throats, but for all that very little ever changed. I know that’s true in a lot of places but in Puerto Rico it seemed to have it’s own special dynamic, maybe it was the existence of the nationalist Independista movement that caused that. The Independistas always made a lot of noise but as I recall they were never able to capture more than 8% or so of the vote.

    Anyway my main conclusion was that Puerto Rican politicians didn’t have to take a back seat to politicians anywhere in their skill at screwing over the electorate, they were truly masters at the craft.

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