Oregon State Legislators' Use of Oregon Benchmark Data in by nyut545e2


									                     Oregon State Legislators’
                  Use of Oregon Benchmark Data
                  in Legislative Decision-Making
                                                 Laura Rose Misaras – June 2007
Introduction                                                                                           Figure 1. Sample Dashboard Elements (not actual data)
The Oregon Progress Board (Salem, Oregon) delivers biennial data reports on the
Oregon Benchmarks, a set of 90+ societal-level, quality-of-life indicators which measure                                           Recommendation:
                                                                                                           Weighted Indices for the 7 categories of Oregon Benchmarks,
progress towards the Oregon Shines vision and strategic plan for the state of Oregon.                     Visual chart for “Big Picture” overview with interactive drill down
In April 2007, a new interactive online reporting system for Oregon Benchmark data was
publicly launched. Helping legislators effectively access and utilize this decision support
tool is a task of the Oregon Progress Board.
Legislators are a key target audience for Oregon Benchmark data, expected to use the
information to gain a “big picture” of Oregon’s current quality-of-life and then apply the
information in their policy-making, budgeting priorities and oversight activities.
Legislators must perform these tasks within an intense political climate and limited
timeframe while balancing a variety of interests, influences and constraints.
This study was an opportunity to gauge Oregon state legislators’ use of Oregon
Benchmark data in legislative decision-making prior to the release of the online system,
and learn about their specific needs, preferences and decision-making style.                                                                                        Click on categories
                                                                                                                                                                           to drill down

Literature Review                                                                                                                                               to individual measures

A review of prior research revealed:
- Abundant theory, analysis and empirical research conducted in a variety of methods
- Decision-making takes place in stages, affected by intrinsic and extrinsic factors
- Trusted legislative colleagues and lobbyists/interest groups are consistently identified
  as top sources of information for legislative decision-making
- Legislators prefer political, bill-specific, defensible, action oriented information
- Legislators express difficulty and barriers applying benchmark and performance data
- Presentation quality, credibility of the source and timing are major influences

- Cross-sectional qualitative study employing semi-structured interviews
- Purposively-selected sample including 3 current and 7 former Oregon state legislators
- Potential interviewees selected based on committee membership(s), availability, and
  diversity of demographic and other characteristics (e.g. party, house, #sessions served,
  Oregon Progress Board membership, age range, gender, etc.)
- Sample included 2 former governors, a former gubernatorial candidate, a former
  Secretary of State, a former State Attorney General, and 2 agency department heads
- Interviewee responses were compiled, grouped by question
- Key phrases, concepts and themes were compiled in summary tables,
  assessed for strength and frequency

Findings & Conclusions (partial list)
- Legislators value the Oregon Benchmarks for their aspirational quality & accountability, noting increased citizen demand for accountability
- Legislators’ use of Oregon Benchmark data was mixed, often varying by committee, favoring budgeting activities
- Legislators felt the Oregon Benchmarks were underutilized and recommended alternative training and delivery times (session orientation,
  campaigns, interim between sessions & close to the time of a decision), plus interaction to gain leading support from party and house leaders
- Legislators’ preference - hard vs. soft data - mixed, most prefer hard data, some both; “soft data helps us make sense of the hard data”
- Legislators’ preference - intuitive vs. analytic decision-making style - mixed, can vary by bill; “one’s guts should be checked by facts”
- Legislators prefer information from sources closest to home; identified trusted legislative colleagues and lobbyists/interest groups as top
  information sources, noting peers’ specialization within the committee system
- Legislators take advantage of lobbyists and interested parties’ paid time to gather research, form compelling arguments and counter-arguments,
  anticipating opposition, describing practically zero-tolerance for errors on lobbyists part, feeling their fear of loss of reputation keeps them honest

Recommendations (partial list)
- Identify and analyze target audiences & channels for Oregon Benchmark data; reach legislators directly & indirectly through secondary channels
- Create and implement strategic action plan to increase Oregon state legislators’ awareness, familiarity, understanding and use of the data
- Consider pursuit of Oregon Benchmark Impact Statements attached to proposed legislation; Consider pursuit of legislative district specific data
- Develop, maintain and promote use of online how-to curriculum for legislators, plus calendar of trainings & special opportunities for delivery
- Guard nonpartisanship, independence, and responsiveness to maintain credibility; Pursue branding; Utilize graphics, posters and stories

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