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Senate Republicans push for biennial legislature
Gov. Terry Branstad repeatedly argued on the campaign trail for biennial budgeting, going so far as to promise to veto any budget that doesn’t span two years. Now, Republicans in the Iowa Senate want to take it a step further, drafting legislation that would amend the state constitution so that the legislature only meets every other year.
The bill — Senate Joint Resolution 1 — was introduced Tuesday and currently has seven Republican sponsors. If it passed this session, which is highly unlikely, it would then have to pass again in 2013 before going to the voters in 2014.
During the 19th century, when traveling was difficult, many states gravitated toward a biennial legislative system. As recently as 1940, only four states had legislatures that met every year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But as state budgets became more complicated and the federal government pushed more responsibilities onto the states, most legislatures switched to annual sessions. Today, only Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas hold session every other year.
Annual sessions diminish the need to call special sessions as problems arise, according to the NCSL. Also, the biennial format is unsuitable for dealing with the complex and continuing problems which confront today’s state governments. The responsibilities of a legislature have become so burdensome that they can no longer be discharged on an alternate-year basis.
The move would also make biennial budgeting a must, which research has shown leaves much to be desired.