American Unicameralism: The Structure of Local Legislatures

77 Pages Posted: 9 May 2017 Last revised: 12 Jun 2018

See all articles by Noah Kazis

Noah Kazis

New York University School of Law

Date Written: May 2018


The bicameral legislature is a cornerstore of the Madisonian system, a basic assumption of American constitutionalism. But a different constitutional vision is hidden in plain sight. Of the more than 90,000 local governments in the United States — many of which began as bicameral before abandoning the federal model, a history traced by this Article — each has now chosen a single chambered legislature. Efficiency and majoritarianism, not internal checks and balances, have driven the design of local legislatures. Local governments are not merely smaller units than states or the federal government; they have their own structure and their own animating principles. Theories built on bicameralism, including statutory interpretation methodologies and modes of judicial review, must be adapted for local, unicameral governments.

Keywords: bicameralism, unicameralism, local government, legislatures, city council, separation of powers, checks and balances, constitutional law, suburbs, New York City, state constitutional law, Tiebout, participation, regionalism, localism, statutory interpretation, judicial review

Suggested Citation

Kazis, Noah, American Unicameralism: The Structure of Local Legislatures (May 2018). 69 Hastings Law Journal 1147, May 2018, Available at SSRN:

Noah Kazis (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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