How would you picture the spirit of the Nebraska? That was what Nebraska artist Reinhold Marxhausen had to do for this mural. Instead of using one scene or image, Marxhausen used several symbols to suggest ideas and feelings, letting the observer decide what he meant by them.
There are brown areas at the bottom of the mural. These might stand for the state's soil -- and its conservative roots. You see dinosaur fossils and human bones. What kind of person could be symbolized as being stuck underground with the fossils? Breaking through on the left is a plant. The plant might stand for agriculture. On the right is the Capitol itself. What could that mean? There are two pairs of hands-- one pair working and one pair reaching up. Could that mean hope and aspirationsgoals you want to achieve, ambitions?
Reinhold Marxhausen's approach to both of the mural mosaics he did for the Nebraska State Capitol was as unique as were his subjects. Marxhausen was really nontraditional: he glued the tiles directly to plywood panels. He used ceramic and glass, as well as hardwood flooring. He fit the pieces together so tightly that he didn't need to add grouta type of glue in between them.
Had a conference committee that met in secret
and tried to work out differences on each bill passed in each house.
|No conference committee, so more open.|
|Supposed to provide a check on each of the houses, but sometimes just shifted responsibility around.||Several checks on its one house—such as voters.|
|Larger, frustrating lawmakers.||Smaller, more open proceedings.|
|Because of closed-door negotiations, more vulnerable to corruption.||Lobbying more open.|
|Two sets of legislators elected from the same groups of people, given the same legislative authority.||No duplication.|
Norris felt strongly that the two-house system was out of date, inefficient, and not necessary. He believed a unicameral would be more open.
In the early 1930's Norris wore out two sets of tires driving throughout the state to carry his message directly to Nebraskans. At that time, the Depression had hit, and a less expensive, more efficient government sounded good to Nebraska citizens.
On November 6, 1934,Nebraskans voted to adopt a constitutional amendment providing for a unicameral legislature.
The one-house legislature exists in other countries. For example, in Canada most provinces are governed this way.
Other American states have shown interest in having a unicameral legislature, but so far only Nebraska has adopted it. Its legislature is part of what makes Nebraska unique.
The immediate results included a 70% drop in government costs.
There weren't so many lawmakers to pay.
There were fewer committees in the Legislature. Fewer bills were introduced, but more were passed.
The unicameral helps keep Nebraska government open to its citizens. The government guides the work of building the state, and this way, in an open democracy, citizens also guide the state. Part of what makes Nebraska's unicameral unusual is the level of participation. Almost anyone who wants to can speak to the Legislature.
For example, in the late 1990's, some Nebraska 4th graders took on special fund-raising projects to get the public -- and the Legislature -- interested in spending money to restore the Capitol. One class collected pennies, and another sold friendship bracelets. Then they testified at a legislative hearing. The Legislature did vote to fund the restoration. To many, the students provided an example of the spirit of Nebraska in action.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT . . .
Instead of driving around promoting his proposals, what could George Norris do today to win support for the Unicameral?
Why do you think he went out in person to talk to Nebraskans?