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January 14, 2014

Sen. Andproposes cutting size of Oklahoma Legislature

ENID, Okla. — State Sen. Patrick Anderson wants Oklahoma voters to have a chance to decide whether to cut the size of the state Legislature.

The Enid Republican has filed legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 43, to set a vote of the people for a constitutional amendment to create a unicameral Legislature consisting of 48 lawmakers.

Oklahoma’s current bicameral Legislature — which includes 101 representatives and 48 senators — is costly, inefficient and unnecessary, Anderson said.

“We are asking all of our state agencies to make cuts and reduce costs,” Anderson said. “As lawmakers, we should reserve the same scrutiny for our own process. Why not lead by example and eliminate the unnecessary expenses that exist in the Legislature?”

State lawmakers will have less money to appropriate in the next fiscal year than they did in the current fiscal year.

The Oklahoma Board of Equalization certified the Legislature will have about $6.96 billion to spend on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That’s about $170 million, or 2.4 percent, less than lawmakers appropriated in the current fiscal year.

Anderson said his proposal would generate savings greater than $16.5 million annually. He said the idea came to him as he “observed what I’ve learned” in the 10 years he’s been in the Legislature.

“Although the Oklahoma Legislature is a bicameral body, both chambers perform identical functions,” he said. “As a result, the legislative process is unduly burdensome and extremely costly to the taxpayers.”

Transitioning to a unicameral Legislature would reduce costs, while providing increased transparency and procedural openness, Anderson said. The Nebraska Legislature is the nation’s only unicameral lawmaking body and has operated with 49 legislators since 1937.

“I think it will pass overwhelmingly in the Senate,” Anderson said. “It might struggle in the House.”

He said he believes the plan will have “strong public support,” and if lawmakers listen to their constituents, it will pass the Legislature.

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