Position is Power: Systems, Structure, and Legislative Effectiveness.

When one pictures a legislative body, one might envision a place where lengthy (if not necessarily learned) and wide-ranging debate takes place, where members look on tensely as closely decided votes on substantial legislation take place, or where politicos glad-hand and cajole their colleagues to advance their legislative agenda. However, one might also envision a place governed by firm parliamentary rules, where adherence to procedural correctness creates roadblocks to action, and where gatekeepers use their position to secure victories of their own while exercising near-perfect negative agenda control over their opposition. Even a cursory review of legislative bodies around the world and within the United States demonstrates that these two visions are both well represented. A better understanding of which vision predominates in a given setting provides an opportunity to better assess the productivity of the body as a whole and identify paths to legislative success. This project examines the Pennsylvania House of Representatives at the level of its individual members, using their organizational and personal attributes and relative rates of legislative success to assess whether sociability or structure better explains legislative effectiveness in the chamber. The results will demonstrate empirically that, while collegiality and sociability may be relevant as background features of the legislative process, the House is a place where position is both generally and particularly valuable.

Research Question & Hypotheses

There is no doubt that legislatures are important political institutions. It is academically interesting that research into them yields so few robust and generalizable findings. As the literature review that follows will demonstrate, while the general character and function of legislative bodies is well understood individual chambers can be painfully idiosyncratic in both structure and function. This raises an important question which can be answered for any given legislative body, and which is applied to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in this case: What accounts for legislative effectiveness in this body? On one hand, legislatures are "clubs" of political elites, and therefore it could be expected that variables which capture concepts of sociability and community to be predictive of legislative effectiveness. On the other hand, legislatures are often majoritarian procedural cartels (as is the PA House) where meaningful action in committees and the chambers are controlled by the majority through its elected and/or selected chairs and leadership. Also, traditional discrimination may mute the effectiveness of individual members in either case.

The extent to which each of these is evident in each body can instruct us as to what the path to legislative effectiveness looks like. A body in which sociability is a prevalent and desirable norm incentivizes collegiality, with a likely byproduct being a greater degree of compromise and corresponding implications for the value of debate. A body in which the procedural cartel predominates (regardless of sociability, or applying such a standard to only its own caucus to the exclusion of others) incentivizes the pursuit of institutional power and control of a key node, such as a committee chair or a position as the majority leader or speaker. This study seeks to identify variables which bring both elements to bear, to see which win out. The net result may serve as a useful guide for agenda setting, expectation setting, and legislative behavior for those who observe and work within the study environment.

In terms of hypothesis building, there is a kind of "Schrodinger's Hypothesis." Either expectation may be met--or both, within the majority caucus--and so both are presented here, without preference or privilege, but merely to guide the analytical effort that will follow in the Data Analysis and Discussion sections. It may also be the case that members may not accrue the same benefit from meeting the prevailing norm, due to gender-based or racial disadvantages. In Hypothesis 1A, the selected variables presume a body in which sociability is the prevailing and functional norm. In Hypothesis 1B, the selected variables presume a body in which majoritarian power is the prevailing and functional norm. Finally, Hypothesis 2 predicts the effects of traditionally disadvantageous demographic features. The hypotheses are as follows:

* [H.sub.1A]: As years in office and number of cosponsored bills increases, legislative effectiveness increases.

* [H.sub.1B]: Committee Chairs and Leaders exhibit higher rates of legislative effectiveness than rank-and-file members.

* [H.sub.2]: Women and people of color will have lower legislative effectiveness scores than comparable members who do not share their demographic attributes.

The dependent variable of "legislative effectiveness" is operationalized as follows: Number of bills reported out of committee/Number of bills introduced by a given member.

An enhanced version of this variable ("legislative effectiveness plus") will derive the same quotient but use as the numerator the number of bills that member had passed by the House. The maximum legislative effectiveness score is 1.00, indicating that all a member's introduced bills were voted out of committee. This measure is consistent with others in the field, though rather more parsimonious than some (for example, Volden and Wiseman's measure at the Center for Effective Lawmaking utilizes some fifteen variables, though the literature below indicates that such largesse is not especially effective at increasing the sensitivity of the measure). (1) For this initial, exploratory effort in the Pennsylvania House the simpler measure captures at least a primitive and guiding snapshot, which is sufficient to the purpose of assessing the general character of the path to legislative effectiveness in the body.

The independent variables are construct measures, utilizing publicly accessible member data. Hypothesis 1A uses years in the chamber and number of cosponsored bills as measures of "sociability." While not a perfect measure, it is logical that members who show interest in other members' legislative efforts and support them with co-sponsorship will derive a reciprocal benefit in the form of support for their own legislation; it also follows that those with more experience in the chamber will have correspondingly wider networks, magnifying that effect. Hypothesis 1B relies on a simple measure of "structure," privileging those with control of the gates of legislative progress. Last, Hypothesis 2 identifies demographic attributes that the literature (as noted below) suggests have corresponded with difficulties in advancing legislative priorities, either due to traditional discrimination or because of the districts that members of underrepresented groups are more likely to represent.

The question being set, hypotheses detailed, and operational variables defined and described, this paper will now review the relevant literature surrounding the topic of legislative character, behavior, leadership, and effectiveness.

Literature Review

In considering the question of legislative success there are two distinct literatures: that of political leadership, firstly, and secondly, that of legislative effectiveness. Without the first, the second is irrelevant (or random, which can largely be taken to be the same thing); without the second, the first is impotent. Both are necessary, and not only to appreciate the results found herein, but also to justify and contextualize the variables chosen for analysis. A brief overview of why (and how) these two bodies of literature are to be reviewed here follows.

Beginning with political leadership, the principal challenge is that political leadership is a particular brand of leadership that privileges certain metaphysical constructs in ways that are unique to it. While military or business leadership take into account elements of the subjective and the psychological but ultimately are still focused on motivation towards the accomplishment of practical tasks, political leadership may potentially (and safely, to a point) ignore the practical entirely and still be quite effective. In a representative democracy the measure of success is not necessarily the degree to which policy problems are alleviated or addressed; instead, persistent victory in popular elections is the primary measure of political success. One can argue, of course, that policy accomplishments contribute to the case for a candidate's election or reelection, but those effects are both small and diluted by other factors. (2) This subset of political leadership can be further divided an environmental factor, specifically what elements of political leadership are applicable in executive vs. legislative settings, as the exercise of political power and the incentive structure of each is distinct from the other. Thus, this review will focus on writings which are particularly relevant to a legislature.

The literature on legislative effectiveness builds on that of political leadership, and itself bifurcates into two veins of thinking and analysis. The impetus for this bifurcation is found in the consideration of whether legislative leadership is a question of capacity (control of key points in the legislative process) or society (interactions of individual members within the legislative caucus as a whole). Are effective legislators effective because they are super-empowered within their legislative bodies, or because their personal attributes contribute to their success (or lack thereof)? These literatures are not mutually exclusive, but there is significant tension between them. There is the challenge to generalizability noted earlier; legislative bodies defy replicability, and the rules and norms of each are unique. Nevertheless, engaging with this literature provides valuable context to...

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