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Legislatures in the 21 st Century (North of the Border) Prepared for the Border Legislative Conference by Thad Kousser August 26, 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "Legislatures in the 21 st Century (North of the Border) Prepared for the Border Legislative Conference by Thad Kousser August 26, 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 Legislatures in the 21 st Century (North of the Border) Prepared for the Border Legislative Conference by Thad Kousser August 26, 2005

2 State Legislatures in the U.S.: Changing Faster Than Ever Who Do We Want Our Leaders to Be? Professional politicians or citizen lawmakers? Short-term servants or veteran experts? The Consequences of Institutional Change Who goes to the capitol? What goes on in the capitol? What comes out of the capitol? Party Polarization: Causes and Effects of a Clear Trend

3 Legislative Professionalism: Making Public Service a Full-Time Career The History of the Idea In ancient Rome’s Republic, Senators had to quit their day jobs By contrast, legislators in Renaissance Florence maintained their outside careers Legislative Professionalism in the States Starting with California’s bipartisan Prop. 1A in 1966, some states began to turn their part-time legislatures into professional bodies that operated like the US Congress

4 Legislative Professionalism: Not Every State Wants It California’s legislature became the most professional in the nation by the 1980s: High salaries made service a full-time job Sessions grew from two months to all year Staff assistance enabled the legislature to stand up to lobbyists and governors New Mexico is still a proud citizen legislature with short sessions, a small staff, and no annual salary.

5 Legislative Professionalism: Not Every State Wants It

6 CaliforniaTexasArizonaNew Mexico Session Length 22 months12 months13 months6 months Total Salary $93,200$19,550$19,900$8,645 Staff per Legislator Source: Karl Kurtz, National Conference of State Legislatures.

7 Term Limits: Can We Take the “Career” out of “Career Politician” The History of the Idea Aristotle argued for “All over each and each in turn over all,” and Athens had term limits. America’s Articles of Confederation had term limits, but the Constitution rejected them. Term Limits in the States In the early 1990s, nearly all states with initiatives followed the lead of Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and the Philippines by enacting term limits.

8 Wherever There is Direct Democracy, There are Term Limits

9 Consequences of Institutional Change: Who Goes to the Capitol? Professional bodies attract a different type of legislator Members are more likely to come from government (local office or state staffs) Members are more likely to keep running Term limits did not succeed in turning back the clock to re-create citizen legislators Post-term limits legislators are even more likely to come from local government, and they try to stay in office

10 Who Goes to the Capitol? Term Limits Accelerated Demographic Change Racial and Ethnic Composition of the California Assembly, Data collected from appropriate editions of the California Journal’s Roster and Government Guide.

11 Consequences of Institutional Change: What Goes On in the Capitol? Compared to citizen legislatures, professional chambers: Have more stable and more powerful leaders, with Speakers and Senate Presidents lasting longer and exerting more influence Give more power to committees, their chairs, and their staffs

12 Consequences of Institutional Change: What Goes On in the Capitol? After term limits, leaders serve for short periods and committees lose power “There has been an essential evisceration of the hearing process … Nothing dies anymore, and there are no rules.” – Former California State Senator who chaired various committees “Since term limits, there is less scrutiny of legislation and less quality in both houses, but a much steeper decline in the Assembly.” – California Senate committee consultant.

13 Consequences of Institutional Change: What Goes On in the Capitol? Gatekeeping in California’s Policy Committees Percentage of Bills that Fail in Committee Before Term LimitsAfter Term Limits Assembly Committees26.6%18.2% Senate Committees21.0%14.8% Total23.8%16.5%

14 Consequences of Institutional Change: What Comes Out of the Capitol? “Innovation” is an important function of state governments in a federal system Citizen legislatures produce fewer “innovative” laws than professional bodies Term-limited legislatures produce fewer “innovative” laws than they did before term limits

15 Consequences of Institutional Change: What Comes Out of the Capitol? Average CSG “Innovation Award” Winners, by type of legislature.

16 Consequences of Institutional Change: What Comes Out of the Capitol? The Legislative vs. Executive Branch Balance of Power Professional legislatures were designed to stand up to governors, and they appear to be more powerful in key areas like budget negotiations Term limits has reduced the role of legislatures in budget negotiations and in oversight of the executive branch

17 Consequences of Institutional Change: What Comes Out of the Capitol? Total Changes Made to Governor’s Budget Proposal

18 Partisan Polarization A Clear Trend Since the 1960s

19 Partisan Polarization: Potential Causes Voters’ and legislators’ ideologies now match up with their party labels Professionalization makes leaders more powerful, allows them to keep members in line Campaign finance rules make social interactions more rare Term limits reduce familiarity National politics is polarizing

20 Partisan Polarization: Potential Effects Members of the minority party are not able to pass as many bills Majority members “batting averages” are usually over 0.500, while minority party members bat around Compromise is rare and gridlock is typical when legislators no longer have common interests The stakes of redistricting battles are even higher than ever

21 Partisan Polarization Were the Good Old Days All That Good? "And how are you today, Mr. Legislature?" – California lobbyist Artie Samish, quoted in Colliers Magazine, August, 1949.


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