Which State Has a Unicameral Legislature?

Nebraska is the only state in the country to have a unicameral legislature, which means that the legislative body is made up of only one house. Nebraska voters chose this option in 1934, and it took effect in 1937. All of the other 49 states currently have bicameral, or two-chamber, legislatures. In 1934, during the 6th year of the Great Depression, Nebraska voters chose to amend their state's constitution and created the first unicameral state legislature in the nation.

The single house is referred to as Nebraska's senate, and its 49 members are called senators. When a bill comes before the senate, it goes to committee and through three rounds of debate before the general body prior to its final dispensation. The unicameral legislature is also non-partisan. The two candidates who receive the highest number of votes in a primary square off in the general election.

One of the factors contributing to the Nebraskan voters' choice was the economic situation in 1934 and the belief that a single-chamber legislature would be less costly and more efficient than the bicameral two-house system. The voters chose to amend the state's constitution despite the argument from critics that a single-chamber approach would remove the system of checks and balances built into the bicameral model.

Nebraska's new unicameral state legislature met formally for the first time in 1937. Although the formal name of the state's governing body is the Nebraska Legislature, it is often referred to as "the Unicameral," and its members are commonly called "senators." The Nebraska state legislature is also the only nonpartisan legislature in the nation.

Much of the drive behind the historic amendment to the Nebraska state legislature came from the state's U.S. senator, George Norris, who pushed for legislative reform after returning from a trip he made to Queensland, Australia in 1931. The Australian state had switched to a unicameral parliament during the previous decade. Norris believed that it was a waste of money to have two governing bodies performing similar duties and that national party politics impaired the effective functioning of state-level governments.