The wisdom of term limits and professional politics has been debated since the time of Aristotle, spurring 'reforms' of legislatures in Athens, Rome, Venice, and in the US under the Articles of Confederation. This book examines recent trends in American states in order to investigate the age-old question of how the rules that govern a legislature affect the behavior of its members and the policies that it produces. The clear and consistent finding is that the two reforms have countervailing effects: whatever professionalization has brought more of, term limits have reduced. This lesson comes from quantitative analyses of data from all fifty states and detailed examinations of legislative records from six states, informed by interviews with over one hundred legislators, staff assistants, lobbyists, journalists, and executive officials.
Thad Kousser joined the University of Califonia, San Diego faculty in 2003 after receiving his Ph.D. in 2002 from the University of California, Berkeley. He has previously worked as a legislative aide and committee consultant in the California State Senate and more recently as an aide to US Senator Ron Wyden through the APSA Congressional Fellowship. His publications include work on term limits, reapportionment, campaign finance laws, the blanket primary, health care policy, and European Parliament elections. This book is based on a dissertation that won the APSA's William Anderson Prize in 2003.
Part I. The Many Designs of American State Legislature: 1. Introduction; 2. Narratives of change in six states; Part II. How Design Affects a Legislature's Form: 3. The stability of leadership: how long do 'First Among Equals' last?; 4. The role of committees: independent actors or agents?; 5. Patterns in legislative achievement; Part III. How Design Affects a Legislature's Function: 6. Bargaining between the legislative and executive branches; 7. The production of policy innovation; 8. Conclusions; 9. Epilogue: adaptations to term limits.