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					Legislatures


Paolo R. Graziano
  Political Science
   AY 2011-2011
    Lecture 12
                  Legislatures

 Legislatures are multimember representative bodies
  which are at the heart of any given political regime.
 Legislatures provide main source of legitimation for
  (input) democracies
 Formal locus of policy making
 Variance with respect to:
   structure
   functions
            Structure (I)
Size: number of members. Big assemblies
 are weaker, not stronger due to
   member veto power
   ‘personalistic’ local politics
Number of chambers: legislatures may
 be:
  unicameral (more effective, at least in
   principle)
  bicameral (more balanced- unless
   weak bicameralism)
   Structure (II) – selection of the
          second chamber

 direct election – ex. USA

 indirect election – ex. France

appointment – ex. Canada
              Functions


representation
deliberation
legislation (including budgetary functions)
making governments
scrutiny
           Representation

basic democratic function: voters’ preference
 representation
societal diversity needs to be represented
 institutionally
electoral systems may interfere with the
 representation function of the legislatures
in order to guarantee representation of
 minorities, reserved seats may be offered (ex.
 Maori in New Zealand).
differential party discipline
                    Deliberation

Legislatures as institutional arena for public
 debates of national concern
Differential organization of deliberation:
    debating legislatures (ex. UK)
    committee-based legislatures (ex. US)
 Differential partisanship
   partisan legislatures (often combined with debating legislatures)
   bipartisan legislatures (often combined with committee-based
    legislatures)
              Legislation

Important but not exclusive function
Relevance depends on the nature of
 party-legislatures relations:
   concentrated or party-dominated
   parliaments (ex. UK)
   fragmented or committee-dominated
   parliaments (ex. US)
Authorizing expenditure as (almost)
 autonomous public policy cycles
 Parliamentary governments

In parliamentary governments, the
 legislatures also ‘make the governments’
 since:
   the governing parties emerge from the assembly
   the executive is responsible before the legislature
   parliamentary majority is directly linked with the
   executive
                    Scrutiny

Particularly relevant in parliamentary
 governments, it may be obtained through:
   questions – (oral and written) queries to ministries
   interpellations – more formal request of information
   emergency debates – high profile request of
   governmental information followed by a
   parliamentary debate
   votes of confidence – formal approval/dismissal of
   government and/or individual ministers
   committee investigations (also in presidential
   governments) – ex. 9/11 Commission
          The committees

 standing committees are the most important
 legislatures’ committees
 select and mediation committees are ad hoc
 committees (and therefore less relevant)
Specific functions:
  enhance parliamentary competence
  reduce partisan conflicts and create mutual
    trust
  provide qualified staff to legislatures’
    members
             Membership

the rise of professional politicians…
…and the political class.
Beyond partisan differences, professional
 politicians may share interests (connected
 to their political status) and specific policy
  goals
Main goal of professional politician: (re-)
 election, not (only) representation.
        Legislatures in
    nondemocratic regimes

lack of autonomy vis-à-vis government
 and/or President
mainly symbolic functions
they may be used in order to incorporate
 moderate opponents into the regime –
 first step towards democratization?
possible pool of potential recruits to the
 elite
             Conclusion


Legislatures perform vital functions…
…which go beyond mere representation.
As institutional fora, they are also a key
 target of partisan competition…
…and have contributed to the creation of
 a political class.

				
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posted:10/14/2012
language:English
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