February 21st, 2013
06:00 AM ET

It's not heaven, it's Nebraska

By Barbara Hall, CNN

Editor's Note: Listen to the full story in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.

(CNN) – America's partisan political divide has led to persistent gridlock in Congress. In fact, the polarization is so profound that some Americans fear the federal government may soon be unable to perform even the most basic functions.

Partisan allegiance is also stifling efforts to compromise within state legislatures. But politics aren't quite as paralyzing in Nebraska.

Former Lieutenant Governor Kim Robak credits the unique, single-house legislature known as a unicameral:

[1:17] "We don't have the arguing and the gridlock and the vitriol that you see at the national level because of partisan politics."

What makes Nebraska's unicameral system even more unique is that it's also the only nonpartisan legislature in the country.
Because of that, Robak says, lawmakers in Nebraska are more likely to address actual issues as opposed to taking a position based on party politics:

[1:36] "It really does make a difference. What's fascinating to watch is how people who would otherwise oppose each other actually work together on legislation."

Nebraska has only 49 state senators, each representing a district of about 35,000 citizens. That's one reason why Arizona State Political Scientist David R. Berman says a unicameral form of government probably wouldn't work everywhere. Berman says single-chamber systems typically work best in smaller states with more homogenous populations:

[3:38] "The fact of the matter is, I guess, that people do disagree and you've got to have someplace where they can fight it out. And a bicameral system is probably more conducive to that."

Over the years a number of other states including Hawaii, Alaska, California and Rhode Island have toyed with the idea of eliminating one chamber but so far, at least, none have. Maybe that's because in most cases it requires the legislature to assist in the process – and politicians are unlikely to vote themselves out of office.

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soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. minimoto

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    February 23, 2013 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ben

    My Dad is a state legislator in NE. I heard all the political talk and arguments going on, and I can tell you first hand, it's just as polarized as everywhere else. Just because the legislators don't have an R or D on their name tags, doesn't mean they don't vote R or D.

    February 21, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. benbrandt3

    Nebraska: the magical land where property taxes can double your mortgage payment! Yeah, this state is freakin' wonderful...

    February 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. minnesotamulisha

    Before moving to Nebraska, I had a friend tell me "You'll like it here, NE is a red state."
    Have you ever been to Lincoln on game day? Everyone is red. Apparently, he wasn't talking politics.
    Everything here is taxed. Even the taxes.

    February 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dem In Nebraska

      Oh, so true... And funny, with a heavy dose of irony!

      February 21, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Chase

    I still wouldn't want to live there and have to deal with all the no teethed dip chewing people.

    February 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dem In Nebraska

      Chase, you're just mad because somebody tried to chew on you while you were here.

      February 21, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      You must have NE confused with Iowa.

      February 21, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Michael

    Not about Red and Blue here, since we're so Red we just get over party differences and get down to business. The Unicameral part isn't what's so great, it's the nonpartisan part.

    February 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mike

    And Nebraska is a Red state...hmmm....

    February 21, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |