Editorial # 34 The Unicameral vs Bicameral legislature January 3, 2019
Just in case you haven’t notice, over the past 50 years, the economy of our great state has evolved from a largely agrarian based business model to a manufacturing, retail, finance based model.
As with everything, the only thing that is constant in life is change. The gradual change in our farm based economy is not happening by accident. It is happening out of a need for farmers and ranchers to survive in the world economy, doing what they must to remain economically viable and survive.
I have often been asked why we can’t have things like they were when we were growing up. I loved the farm and the life we had living off the land with the independence and freedom to manage our own destiny. But as I mentioned, the only constant in life is change and those days are gone. Farming is a business and we cannot become too attached to the romantic notions of farming as those past traditions are no longer sustainable as a business model. A business that does not make money is, by definition, known as a hobby.
Today, the life on the farm is nothing like it was even 30 years ago. With the technological advancements, environmental regulations, the size of the equipment and the tax programs, it is far removed from the times when we only took a bath on Saturday whether we needed it or not.
These changes are inevitable and the day is fast approaching when we will need to review whether we should keep our unicameral legislature to manage our state’s great agricultural economy. The unicameral worked very well when the state was largely homogenous with agriculture contributing over 95% of the state’s economy. Today the agricultural related markets contributes about 40% to the state’s economy while occupying over 90% of its land, but represented by only 20% of the unicameral.
The property tax disaster and our poor rural infrastructure of roads and bridges is a direct result of this imbalance and a classic example of “Taxation without Representation” which, by the way, caused the Revolutionary War.
No one wants a civil war, but the unfairness of the property tax situation is a direct result of this gross imbalance of equal representation in our legislature. The urban majority seems to like it this way and there is little incentive to change it. But that does not make it right.
Our unicameral is based on population, like our National House of Representatives. The rural land owners have practically no representation with the present system of a unicameral having 80% of the legislature representing only 10% of the state’s land area.
A second house of 50 members for our state of 77,000 square miles would have each district be about 40 miles square in area. The chamber is already available in the capitol building and the cost compared to preventing the impending disaster of our agricultural based economy, if not addressed, would be a small price to pay for fairness to be restored to the single most important part of our state’s economy.
This is Keith Kube wishing you the best in making Nebraska and our country a better place.