When Legislatures Can and Can’t Check Executive Powers

29-Jul-2019 3:50 PM EDT, by Vanderbilt University

Newswise — A persistent puzzle among political scientists is the counterintuitive finding that chief executives exercise their unilateral powers to achieve their policy goals less often under divided government—not more.

A new empirical analysis, published in Legislative Studies Quarterly by Sharece Thrower, assistant professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, helps explain why.

“We hear a common narrative that presidents and governors might want to issue more executive orders as a way to get around legislatures that don’t agree with them,” said Thrower, “And certainly they have incentives to do that, but in this paper we show why that doesn’t always happen. And the answer is that it depends on the legislature’s capacity to retaliate.”

Working with Michael Barber of Brigham Young University and Alexander Bolton of Emory University, Thrower analyzed more than 24,000 executive orders issued between 1993 and 2003—the largest such analysis of gubernatorial unilateralism to date. Because all 50 states have similar—but not identical—governments, they functioned as a natural experiment for Thrower and her colleagues, allowing them to compare executive behavior under a variety of conditions.

All states, of course, have governors and legislatures. But some legislatures had very small political majorities while others had supermajorities. Some legislatures were more politically polarized than others. Some legislatures had majorities from the same party as the governor while others did not. And some legislatures were endowed with certain policymaking powers that allowed them to push back against their governors’ orders while others did not.

The researchers found that governors were less likely to act unilaterally when the legislature was well equipped to push back. “For instance, a legislature that has a large opposing majority, or a legislature with a smaller majority but low polarization may be better able to work together to oppose the governor through the lawmaking process,” Thrower said. “Likewise, a legislature that has the ability to review or overturn regulations can also constrain a governor’s power.”

However, she said, some legislatures are too polarized to cooperate enough to override a veto or retaliate through new laws, for example, while others aren’t empowered with the tools to weaken or reject policies issued by the governor. Under those circumstances, executives tend to use unilateral power more freely.

These differences help explain why executives don’t always make use of their unilateral power when facing an opposition government. “When executives face empowered legislatures, their unilateral powers are constrained,” she said. “But when they face legislatures that lack the ability to act through the policymaking process, this is where we see executive power really flourish.”

SEE ORIGINAL STUDY

Filters close

Showing results

110 of 5687
Newswise: 250494_web.jpg
Released: 3-Dec-2020 2:05 PM EST
Why does it matter if most Republican voters still think Biden lost?
University of Rochester

As President-elect Joe Biden and his administrative team officially begin the transition process, only about 20 percent of Republican voters consider him the true winner of the election.

Released: 2-Dec-2020 7:15 AM EST
Congress Must Act To Fortify Health Care System And Protect Access To Care
American College of Radiology (ACR)

The final 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule fails to avert the potential impact on seniors of payment cuts to more than a million health care providers already reeling from COVID-19’s financial impact. If Congress does not act now to address these changes, the results may be devastating for patients, communities and providers.

Released: 1-Dec-2020 11:10 AM EST
‘Fairmandering’ data tool makes redistricting more representative
Cornell University

A new mathematical method developed by Cornell University researchers can inject fairness into the fraught process of political redistricting – and proves that it takes more than good intent to create a fair and representative district.

Newswise: Efficient In-person voting observed by URI VOTES research team
Released: 30-Nov-2020 4:30 PM EST
Efficient In-person voting observed by URI VOTES research team
University of Rhode Island

The 2020 election is all but complete, but a team of researchers at the University of Rhode Island is still crunching the numbers – not the number of votes, but the statistics used to determine the efficiency of in-person voting in Rhode Island, Nebraska and Los Angeles.

Newswise: Rutgers Philosophy Professor Analyzes Justice Issues in New Podcast
Released: 30-Nov-2020 9:30 AM EST
Rutgers Philosophy Professor Analyzes Justice Issues in New Podcast
Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Rutgers-New Brunswick philosophy Professor Derrick Darby is helping to bring logic and data to discussions on the struggle for justice in America and globally in A Pod Called Quest.


Showing results

110 of 5687

close
1.57898