Monday, February 22, 2010

All Hail Sjur Lindebraekke

Gerard Loewenberg, Samuel C. Patterson, and Malcolm E. Jewell (eds.) Handbook of Legislative Research. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Heinz Eulau notes how Woodrow Wilson in 1885 observed that the executive and legislative branches of American government were a “fusion of powers”.

Donald R. Matthews observes there are varying avenues open to different types of people to become legislators in different jurisdictions. Legislators tend not to emerge from the “average” of who they represent. They tend to be wealthier, more educated, and have higher status than their constituents. Legislatures often have a much higher percent of lawyers than exist within their jurisdictions, although this is mostly an American trend not found in most other countries. Legislators are more apt to be men.

Matthews notes academics are aware of only once where a person was forced to be a legislator against his will. Norway’s Constitution required those elected to Parliament to serve. Sjur Lindebraekke was nominated by the Conservative Party despite not wishing the nomination nor being a party member and was elected despite refusing to campaign and arguing he didn’t want to be elected.

Lynn Ragsdale notes that voters and the media often portray legislative elections as more competitive than they really are.

Malcolm E. Jewell notes that representatives can have elements of being both representative of their constituents and being authoritative in determining their own views. Legislators seek the view of their constituents. They also consider the depth of those views and the degree to which they may dissent from their opinions. Many legislators feel conflicting pressures as to whether they should do what is best for their district or best for their nation/state. Loyalty to the positions of their political parties can take priority over their constituents’ views. A study published in 1977 found Pennsylvania was one state where legislators had relatively low allegiance to political party positions. Many legislators seek services for their districts, although the degree to which they seek these varies and often depends on such variables such as staff support.

Jewell notes it is important for legislators to comprehend the degree to which their constituents feel about certain issues.

David W. Brady and Charles S. Bullock, III observe legislators often represent factions in internal splits within their own political parties. They also note that coalitions of groups often form over policies seeking legislative action. Studies indicate that, as the number of groups involved in a coalition increases, the more unstable it is over time.

Robert L. Peabody observes there is both formal and informal legislative leadership. The first Speaker of Congress, Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg, who previously had presided over Pennsylvania’s legislature, was chosen by the entire body with few partisan concerns involved in his election. Over time, Congressional leaderships have increased partisanship. U.S. House Speakers Thomas Reed, in the late 19th century, and Joseph Cannon in the early 20th century, held much power as they chaired the Rules Committee and appointed committee memberships. The Speaker’s powers were reduced afterwards.

Susan Webb Hammond notes that the use of legislative staff began escalating during the 1960s. Prior, staff mostly served as experts on legislative committees or as legislative agency staff. Several state government reform movements in the 1960s helped create support for more legislative staff. Legislative staff were used to support caucuses and as personal staff to specific legislators.

Ronald D. Hedlund notes the culture of states affects how their legislators are organized. Some states have voters with strong ethical views while other states have voters have tended to have stronger profit motivations. Some states find most legislators commute to work while larger states require legislators to stay in their Capitol cities. Most of these legislative structures results in legislative actions of issues in a piecemeal fashion.

Legislators with more members tend to have more opportunities to have members with expertise on more topics, tend to have shorter debates, are more complicated in structure, and often have stricter operating rules.

Melissa P. Collie notes how legislative votes depend on such matters as the cohesiveness of their affiliated political parties, constituent opinions, personal policy beliefs, etc. Legislators in districts with fewer reelection worries tend to be more loyal to the positions of their party leadership.

Bert A. Rockman notes that the strategy that an Executive uses may determine success in legislative relations as much as do part personal relations with legislators. The degree to which legislators use their oversight functions over the Executive branch varies. A leading determinant of the degree to which legislators interact with the Executive branch is the degree of the aspirations of legislators to engage in Executive policies. Factors that increase legislative oversight include providing legislators with the authority to change Executive policies and the availability of staff resources. Other matters than can affect oversight include opposite party control of the Executive branch, media attention on an issue, a public appeal for oversight, or legislators seeking oversight roles as advancing their legislative roles. Alan Rosenthal concluded that legislative oversight is more a faction of having a legislative process in place to conduct oversight than the desires of individual legislators desiring oversight.

Keith E. Hamm observes many legislative committees have majority representation of members who agree with legislative leaders. He further observes that many legislators tend to have mostly members who support the type of business that concerns the committees.

Bruce I. Oppenheimer found amateur state legislators often lacked the technical skills to evaluate technical issues such as water resources policies.


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