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State Senate slows down bad ideas -- Robert A. Hall

February 17, 2019 GMT

I read with interest the Feb. 3 letter to the editor ” Wisconsin doesn’t need state Senate. ” Let me present another view.

Back in the 1970s, in my misspent youth, I served five two-year terms in the Massachusetts Senate. It was my first job after college, and I retired undefeated in 1982 at age 36.

I used to liken the Massachusetts House -- and to be fair, often the Senate -- to a herd of cows that could be stampeded by a couple of cowboys waving hats and firing revolvers into the air. Some event would grab the media’s and public’s attention, a fast solution would be proposed, and it would be rammed through with little thought.

It happened with the drinking age when four drunken 17-year-old girls were killed in a VW bug crash. How raising the age at the time from 18 to 19 would have saved 17-year-olds who were already drinking illegally was never explained. No matter, it flew through. The public demanded action, and the rush was on.

The reason 49 of the 50 states have bicameral legislatures is it tends to slow the process down, requiring a second look at “hot” legislation. Two chambers allows time to develop facts and for cooler heads to prevail. It doesn’t always work. But it gives us a fighting chance.

Robert A. Hall, Madison