Salient Institutional Issues
Edited by Albert Breton, Giorgio Brosio, Silvana Dalmazzone and Giovanna Garrone
Chapter 5: Bicameralism and Environmental Legislation
Giorgio Brosio 1 INTRODUCTION This chapter explores the likely impact, if any, of bicameralism on environmental legislation. While there is a substantive literature on the impact of bicameralism on legislation, studies of the impact of bicameralism on legislation pertaining to the environment are practically non-existent. In a nutshell, the immediate and most visible difference between a unicameral and a bicameral system is to increase the number of institutional veto players; that is, of collective actors that have to agree to a change of policy. Bicameralism is, in effect, a manifestation of divided government. It introduces a bias in favour of the status quo, where existing legislation has less chance to be modified than in a unicameral system. This is what the literature takes to be the main property of bicameralism. Since environmental legislation is predominantly a response to diffused interests, likely to be strongly and successfully opposed by concentrated interests, bicameralism might represent a serious obstacle to the introduction of new environmental legislation or to its effectiveness. The chapter is mainly focused on the status quo issue and considers how the arguments advanced to explain the power of a bicameral legislature to stall and/or stop legislation can be made compatible with the observation that substantial environmental legislation has been introduced in all industrialized countries, both unicameral and bicameral, and despite the fact that this legislation satisfies diffused as against concentrated interests. Stalling and stopping legislation may be considered good or bad, but in the case of environmental legislation bicameralism does...
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