Date of Award

Spring 1981

Document Type



Communication Studies


In 1934, Nebraska met four conditions that not only warranted a discussion of unicameralism but resulted in its implementation. In addition to dissatisfaction, unemployment was high, economy was poor, and activity in partisan politics was negligible. Montana has yet to experience those four conditions in simultaneity. That time may conceivably never come. Partisan politics has always been a very healthy part of this state’s history. To predict a change in that respect would be presumptuous and probably inaccurate. However, it is entirely possible that partisan political activity is not necessarily an integral factor in the conversion from bicameralism to unicameralism. There may well be other, more significant factors applicable to Montana's circumstance. It is also possible that once all of these factors, or a combination of them are met, that Montana will, once again, seriously consider the adoption of the unicameral. It is imperative that the fight for unicameralism persist through debate, legislation, initiative and campaign, for it exists as an equally healthy alternative to the bicameral. It is necessary that the people of Montana understand the ramifications of adopting a one-house assembly. It is vital that the association of unicameralism with myths of socialism, communism, and corruption, cease. People must escape such narrow-minded notions in order to realize the merit of a unicameral system. Contrary to popular belief, the recognition or admission of a unicameral's financial and political value does not compel mandatory adoption. It is only necessary that a reader of this thesis understand that a unicameral can work and that such a system is comprised of certain shortcomings as well as particular advantages. The thesis is divided into four distinct areas. Initially, an idea of the history of the unicameral is suggested. A good part of the second is devoted to early American history. It is necessary to be apprised of the regard accorded the unicameral in American history if one is to understand the American attitude toward unicameralism today. Chapter Two addresses unicameralism in the Nebraskan circumstance. It is the largest segment of the thesis. It contains a history of the unicameral struggle in this midwestern state. It suggests reasons for its ultimate adoption despite a well-organized opposition. It defines the advantages and disadvantages of a one-house assembly. It examines the non-partisan nature of Nebraska's government and it gives a flavor of the process as it exists today. Since Nebraska remains the only state to have adopted a unicameral legislature, much time has been dedicated to this section. Sources and materials dealing with unicameralism were sketchy and difficult to locate in all areas except in the Nebraska experiment. Thus, the weight of the thesis is found here, in Chapter Two. The Montana chapter follows. It is designed around the unicameral movement effected in 1972 and in 1980. Montana has not enjoyed the broad exposure to the unicameral idea that Nebraska had experienced. This chapter focuses on attitudes regarding a one-house system which were expressed both in the Constitutional Convention and during the 1980 initiative drive. Names and personalities involved in the great one-house debate are set forth in Chapter Three. However, no conclusions are drawn in this chapter as to why the proposal has failed in both instances. Those contentions are included in the final section of the thesis. In addition to the expression of Montana attitudes, this chapter explains the ramifications of the Reynolds vs. Sims Court decision and addresses the concept of appropriate districting. The final portion of the paper illustrates an effort to draw some decisive conclusions as to the advantages of introducing the unicameral concept to Montana. The basis for the remarks is drawn from both the Nebraskan and the Montana experience.