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Odd Governmental Thought - RonO's Ramblings — LiveJournal

Dec. 14th, 2010 03:34 pm Odd Governmental Thought

Today over lunch, while killing time, I was doing some “random wikipedia browsing” and landed on the article on the Westminster system of government – basically the parliamentary system used in the UK and many of its offspring countries.

This led to my thought that I don’t think that there is anything in the U.S. Constitution that would preclude a U.S. State (current, future or alternate-history) from adopting the Westminster system of parliament for its internal governance.  As far as I know all 50 states use a variation of the U.S. federal system (with at least one state having a unicameral legislator – but still with three branches), but I don’t think that there is any hard rule that this be so.

I think that congress has to approve – or at least traditionally has believed that it has to approve – the constitutions of a state before admittance.  This would be somewhat of a hurdle to having a vary different system, and may in part explain this.

Now, I can think of at least one alternate history scenario where this could have come about.  Had Dole and company chosen to establish a Westminster government in Hawaii, or had just taken over the existing system, but still partitioned the U.S. to become a territory, and been excepted with the existing government left more or less in tact as the territorial government (possibly with the monarch still having the head of state role), and then was admitted as a state without changing governance much.

{Somewhat embarrassing as someone descended from residents of the Territory of Hawaii on my mothers side (my mother was born and raised on The Big Island), I’m a bit shaky on the details of the transition from Monarchy to Territory}.

One interesting outcome of this could be that Hawaii could still have a constitutional monarch, with similar or perhaps less powers than the monarch of the British Commonwealth.

Another way I could see this coming about in either an alternate past or a future history (more likely imagined than real) would be for one or more current Commonwealth country becoming a state – possibly by some process that skips any territorial stage – while preserving most of its governance.  One thing I could see being awkward in this case would be ending up with a head of state that would be – at least titularly, and by representative - the monarch of the Commonwealth.

Of course if this last situation developed, I suspect that it would by tradition if not by law be that the governor would be appointed by the monarch only with the approval of the state’s parliament or electorate.

In either case, I would expect that the state’s premier or prime minister would be treated as the governor in most or all nationwide cases.  So it would be this premier who would attend governor’s meetings.

Of course, not being creative in this way, I’m not sure what kind of interesting stories a writer could develop from this idea – but I wouldn’t mind finding out.

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Date:December 14th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
Related to your "other commonwealth country" scenario would be if Canadian provinces somehow were joined to the USA, retaining their existing internal governance. For example, what if the Canadian government refused to fund the trans-Canadian railway, and British Columbia then applied for admission to the USA on the condition that it retain its existing governmental structure.

There would be an issue of having to appoint lieutenant-governors for those states, which would be nominally in the hands of the President, but who would be presumably obliged to follow formal Advice from the Premier of the province, if I understand how the system works.
Date:December 15th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
The "other commonwealth country" scenario that occurred to me would involve Tonga, which has royalty that is separate from that of other commonwealth nations, but whose parliament is currently in transition to being completely popularly elected (as opposed to 1/3 elected by the people, 1/3 elected by the nobility, and 1/3 appointed by the king, which is how it was until a few weeks ago). This would result in a state with its own monarchical and nobility system under the auspices of the U.S. government. I'm not sure whether the monarch or the prime minister would be functionally the "governor." I'm guessing it would have been the monarch under the old system and the prime minister under the currently emerging system.
Date:December 15th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
They'd have to get rid of the monarchy completely in order to join the USA, on account of Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government...."

I don't think this precludes a Westminster-type parliament, because the Head of State can be elected rather than a monarch.