In order to reduce costs and minimize the damage done by the state Legislature, a lot of people would like to make it part time. I think it would be better to eliminate the state Senate.
Eliminating the Senate will save more than $31 million a year. This is what is budgeted for the state legislature for fiscal year 2011 (from Fiscal Year 2011 Executive Budget, page B-23):
Over $31 million is saved from eliminating the Senate ($28,632.0) and the Senate Fiscal Agency ($2,897.3). The Senate's share of the $3,424,100 cost for the retirement system may increase at first with all those newly-retired senators, but it will diminish over time. And less than the current $11,028,100 should be required for the Legislative Council, a bipartisan committee of the Legislature providing services such as bill drafting and research, and less than the current $11,799,300 should be required to manage, operate, maintain and repair the Capitol and the legislative office buildings ("Property Management"). We might even be able to rent out those vacant Senate offices and gain some revenue.
Each Michigan citizen is currently represented by two legislators: a representative and a senator. There are 38 senators and 110 representatives. Each represents a district drawn to include a certain number of people: 90,000 for senators and 262,000 for representatives. This makes Michigan's senate very much unlike the U.S. Senate, where there are two senators per state and they serve at large. Since its members represent states rather than same-size groups of people, the U.S. Senate is not a democratic institution. This makes Michigan's senate superior to the U.S. Senate. It also makes it redundant - a mini-House of Representatives. Why do Michigan citizens need two representatives?
The 49 states that have a bicameral legislature apparently did so to mimic the U.S. legislative structure, but the situations were much different. The U.S. Senate was created created as a compromise to get the smaller states to sign on to the U.S. Constitution. This is from Wikipedia:
Michigan's senate has been population-based since 1964, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v. Sims that state legislative districts that were not roughly equal in population violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. At the time of that decision, Michigan's senate was based 80% on population and 20% on area.
Eliminating the Senate means that legislation will only have to pass one house, which will make the legislative process more efficient. With a unicameral legislature, we might be able to get a state budget passed before October for a change.
Nebraska is currently the only state with a unicameral legislature, consisting of 49 senators. Each represents a district containing about 35,000 people. All Canadian provinces are unicameral.
A document in the Library of Michigan presents arguments for and against retaining a two-house legislature. It is from a debate that took place in 1971 between House Speaker William A. Ryan and Senator Carl D. Pursell on the "for" side and Representative Joseph P. Swallow on the "against" side. The cover sheet contains this statement:
My failed petition drive. In the fall of 2010, I began an effort to get a proposal on the ballot to eliminate the state Senate. I prepared the petition and registered a ballot question committee with the Secretary of State so contributions and expenditures could be reported. I named the committee the "Committee to Transform Michigan". My petition was approved "as to form" by the Board of State Canvassers on December 17, 2010 along with 3 others I prepared, all anti-union measures. But I had no intention of using the "eliminate the Senate" petition I had submitted to the Board. In order to show all the required changes to the Constitution AND all the changed sections as they currently appear (as required by statute), a 5-sheet extension would have been required. But I figured out a way to get by with a 1-sheet extension. First of all, I would ignore the requirement that all the changed sections be shown again without the changes. Second, I would use a table to deal with some of the short, simple, multi-occurring changes:
In January, I wrote a long letter to Secretary of State Ruth Johnson with a bunch of complaints about the Bureau of Elections requirements for petitions. This is from my letter:
Christopher Thomas, Director of Elections, answered on behalf of the Secretary of State. His answer to my objection to including the "original text" starts on page 1 of his letter. In short, he said the issue had already been brought before the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Court found that the law required the original text to be included. He didn't like my table, either, so there was no way I could do this petition without the 5-sheet extension. The petition would be 4 feet 3 inches (6 times 8.5 inches) by 14 inches.
This did not change my plans. I resolved to go ahead and do it my way, including my table and excluding the original text. That would require only a 1-sheet extension. And when the Board of State Canvassers rejected it, I would take them to court - the Michigan Supreme Court, if necessary.
Later on, after the Committee to Transform Michigan membership grew from 1 to 5, the other members persuaded me to abandon the initiative to eliminate the Senate, pointing out that it didn't really fit with the other 3 initiatives and would only be a costly distraction.