Unit 2 - State legislatures: Legislatures perform three...

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State legislatures: Legislatures perform three main tasks: o Making laws o Oversight of executive branch o Provide for citizen representation How the perform these tasks is greatly influenced by institutional design. Key legislative institutions: o Bicameralism: Two-chamber legislative branch (every state except Nebraska) Most state upper houses are smaller, and members serve longer terms Requires passage of bills in identical form in both chambers Slows down the legislative process o Parties in the legislature: Decision-making structured by parties in most states (Nebraska is non-partisan) Leadership is structured by parties in nearly every legislature Not as strongly as in Congress. Some states appoint members of the other party to leadership positions Structures relations between chambers and with the governor. o Committees in legislature: Organized around policy areas Leadership positions generally awarded based on: Partisanship Seniority Loyalty to party leadership Power of committee chairs varies across states o Leadership in legislature: Leaders of chambers generally from the majority party Appoint committees and set policy agenda Power/influence varies across states o Level of “professionalization:” Trend over the last 50 years to make state legislatures more “professional” Done by: Increasing salaries Extending length of sessions Expanding personal and committee staff Expanding operation budgets Professionalization: Makes careers in legislatures possible Provides resources to do the job Make re-election more likely/members more insulated from national or state- wide political pressures o Term limits: Most adopted through citizen initiative Popular with voters: Anti-politician Anti-grid lock Currently in 15 states: ME, CA, CO, AR, MI, FL, OH, SD, MT, AZ, MO, OK, NE, LA, NV
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Repealed in 6 states: ID and UT repealed by legislature; MA, OR, WA, WY repealed by state supreme court. Impact of term limits: Most political insiders do not like term limits because they reduce stability and increase uncertainty. Create higher turnover rates in legislatures Appears to concentrate power in the hands of leaders Shifts power to governor and executive agencies, legislative staff, and interest groups because they have expertise. Does not appear to stimulate competition: o May even reduce it as potential challengers just wait for incumbents to be termed out. Many lower house members run for the upper house Some evidence that term-limited members are less focused on district and more focused on the state as a whole. Decision-Making and Majority Rule:
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Unit 2 - State legislatures: Legislatures perform three...

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