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What Is Legislative Effectiveness? (with Craig Volden)

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The topic of this episode is, “What is legislative effectiveness?”

We voters often say that we want our senators and members of Congress to do things, and preferably, the right things. We tend to dislike it when we see people on Capitol Hill who are all talk and no action. And in theory, we should vote out of office those lawmakers who are ineffective.

Let me have a caveat here. To be sure, there are some legislators who have turned noise making into a profitable brand, and they do use it to get reelected again and again. But in my 20 years of watching Capitol Hill, it's my estimate that they comprise a small percentage of the total membership. Most people in Congress are, to varying degrees, trying to get things done. So how, then, are we voters supposed to tell which of these legislators are effective and which are not?

To help me answer that question, I have with me Craig Volden. He is a professor of Public Policy and Politics at the University of Virginia. Dr. Volden is the author of many publications. Critically for this podcast's purpose, he is the founder and co-director of the Center for Effective Lawmaking, which produces scores of legislator effectiveness that you can find at: thelawmakers.org.

Kevin Kosar:

Welcome to Understanding Congress, a podcast about the first branch of government. Congress is a notoriously complex institution, and few Americans think well of it. But Congress is essential to our republic. It's a place where our pluralistic society is supposed to work out its differences and come to agreement about what our laws should be.

And that is why we are here: to discuss our national legislature and to think about ways to upgrade it so it can better serve our nation. I'm your host, Kevin Kosar, and I'm a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington DC.

Welcome to the program.

Craig Volden:

Thanks so much for having me. It is a delight to join you, Kevin.

Kevin Kosar:

So let's cut straight to the topic of the program. What is legislative effectiveness?

Craig Volden:

This is something that I have been thinking about for a long time working with Professor Alan Wiseman at Vanderbilt University. We wrote a book on the subject about a decade ago called Legislative Effectiveness in the United States Congress: The Lawmakers.

In that book, we defined legislative effectiveness as, “the proven ability to advance a member's agenda items through the legislative process and into law.” So the key elements of “legislative effectiveness”—proven ability, the agenda items of the member, advancing into law—are in there.

Kevin Kosar:

So as the title of the book indicates, it really does focus on the lawmaking function of an elected official.

Craig Volden:

That's right.

And here, Alan and I founded the Center for Effective Lawmaking. And we like to stay in our lane—it is not the “Center for Effective Oversight” or “Center for Effective Communication with Constituents.” The Center is about lawmaking: what it takes to move those bills into law in the Congress and increasingly now in the state legislatures.

Kevin Kosar:

So you mentioned there was a book about a decade ago. In my intro of you, I mentioned the website, thelawmakers.org.

When did that launch, and what was the motivation behind putting that out there?

Craig Volden:

Our book came out in 2014, and there was certainly some academic interest. But there was also some broader level of interest among members of Congress, in the good governance community, and some private foundations. We were blessed enough to get some grant money and to have a conversation about whether we wanted to continue our research on effective lawmaking into the future and, if so, did we want it to be a purely academic exercise or were we interested in maybe more engagement with Congress and with the good governance community? We are both at career stages after tenure where we can combine those—do research and hopefully make that research of use to others.

As part of that, we looked into what would be the best way to make that contribution, and decided that setting up the Center for Effective Lawmaking—a partnership between Vanderbilt University and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia—made a lot of sense. We have, for example, two dozen faculty affiliates at a variety of colleges, universities, and think tanks, an annual conference, a working paper series, public release of our scores on thelawmakers.org, a small grant competition, etc.—all of the things on the research end that are really helpful to building up a community of knowledge.

On the engagement front, we—along with our good governance partner organizations—generate a new member guide and get involved in orientation materials for new members coming to Capitol Hill. We speak with a variety of organizations that are trying to get people to run for Congress who would be effective once they get there or institutional reformers who are thinking about how to how to make a better Congress.

We aim to be grounded in the research, but simultaneously be of use to the good governance community and to Congress itself.

Kevin Kosar:

Yes. A book is a static creation that cannot be updated unless you release a new edition—you cannot insert new data; you cannot put information on new members of Congress. So a website has got clear attraction to it. Everyone should know also that the website is not behind a paywall—anybody can go take a look at thelawmakers.org.

Now put in terms for non-political scientists out there, how do you measure legislative effectiveness? Do you just count the number of laws that a member's name is attached to as a sponsor or cosponsor? What is the method?

Craig Volden:

We returned to that definition—“proven ability to advance a member's agenda through the legislative process and into law”—to think clearly about how we would objectively measure that.

Prior to our work, there was just the counting up of laws. There was some subjective, “Let's do a survey and see who people think is effective.” We were more interested in a holistic measure, so we actually combine 15 metrics in a weighted average based on the number of bills that any member sponsors, how far they move through the lawmaking process, and how important they are in a substantive sense.

We track five stages of the lawmaking process. For each member of Congress, how many bills did he or she put forward as the main sponsor? But then, how many of those bills received action in committee—a hearing, a markup, a subcommittee vote? How many of them received action beyond committee on the floor of the House or the floor of the Senate—getting to a vote? How many of them passed their home chamber, and how many of them became law?

Since we know that not all of these bills are the same, we downgrade the commemorative bills (e.g., post office naming, minting of coins) and we upgrade the substantive and significant bills—those that get a lot of media attention. These five stages of the lawmaking process and three levels of bill significance combined to 15 weighted average metrics. The things that are rarer—having a law, having a substantive and significant law—then have a much greater weight on one's legislative effectiveness.

We are also recognizing that we are increasingly moving from passing stand-alone bills to conglomerations of bills and ideas into law. The omnibus budget bills or the National Defense Authorization Act (the NDAA) often has embedded within it dozens or hundreds of different pieces of legislation. We are now able to now detect that and give credit for it by using plagiarism style software to find the language that is in bills and see whether it appears in laws later on.

The data available to us is great such that on our website, we are able to give scores for every member of Congress in each Congress from the 1970s right up through the most recently completed 117th Congress and in 21 different issue areas as well. So somebody wondering, ‘Who's really getting something done on defense or in education or in health care?’ can find answers to that and a lot more on our website.

Kevin Kosar:

So I have heard your definition of legislative effectiveness, which is a very individual-centered definition. That would imply that a legislator has a certain extent of authority or power to raise their own effectiveness score. Put a different way, are the most effective legislators inevitably the individuals who lead the House of Representatives or the Senate, the power brokers, those who have been in committee chairs forever and always rack up the high score by virtue of position, or not?

Craig Volden:

We went in with the expectation that we would find that a tenth-term majority party committee chair would outscore a first term minority party member. And certainly, we find that. But what is more fascinating to us is what members do individually—what legislators can do from Day One to become more effective. We have dedicated a lot of our research around that.

Let me give a few examples. We have looked at freshman members of Congress and the congressional staff that they hire—how many years of experience on Capitol Hill did those staff members have? About a quarter of all new members of Congress hire legislative staff who have zero years of Capitol Hill experience. Others hire a very experienced staff, and those who hire an experienced staff tend to be much more effective, as you could imagine.

I mentioned that we scored people on 21 different issue areas. We also looked at the legislative portfolios that members are putting forward. Some members of Congress are generalists—they sponsor bills in 21 different issue areas. Some are much more specialists. They become the go-to person on an issue such as health or education. The most active members find that sweet spot, where they dedicate more than half of their agenda to something where they have expertise. It might be something from their background career, they have a committee assignment in that area, or their constituents care about it. They are not pulled between making electoral and lawmaking considerations, so they're really specialists in those key areas.

The third thing I would point to as an example is we find that the most effective members of Congress are pretty bipartisan. They attract to their bills members of the other party. That is certainly helpful if you are in the minority party, but what we found is that majority party members that build that broad bipartisan coalition are more effective as members of Congress, and that effectiveness has been consistent even in recent years when we know Congress has been quite polarized.

Kevin Kosar:

Yes, the bipartisan angle is important not least because the margins in the two chambers tend to be very narrow. It is not easy to get your party to be unanimous in support of something, and it is always nice if you can get support from across the aisle.

But it is inevitably a question that gets asked on Capitol Hill: when staff are shopping around a boss's bill, one of the responses they get from other offices is, “Is somebody in the other party cosponsoring or supporting this?” People want to know whether this is going to be a tough effort or an impossible one.

How often are you surprised by the results? Do you often get scores where you think, ‘I've never heard of this person, and yet this person is scoring high,’ or, ‘This person always gets media attention as a serious policymaker, but the numbers don't bear it up.’

Craig Volden:

There is some up and down by the nature of what actually became law in a given session of Congress, but we were partly surprised by the remarkable consistency of who is at the top of our lists from one Congress to the next. But we are more interested in discerning the broader patterns than the individual blips up and down, and the surprises often come to us in those patterns.

Let me give you an example of something that we have found recently and are talking about quite a bit. Over the past 50 years, when Democrats have been in the majority party, it is the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that has its most effective members. But when Republicans have been the majority party, the conservative wing of the Republican Party is actually the least effective.

What's going on there? Why are conservative Republicans having a tough time? It is linked to a variety of those things that we have been talking about already. The conservative turn in the Republican Party has been fairly recent across our 50 year scale. The most conservative members of the Republican Party are not particularly senior. They are not likely to hold committee chairs. As such, because we know those are key factors in moving legislation forward, the institutions are not set up to move in those new directions as strongly. Moreover, a lot of those conservative members of Congress are not doing the work of building coalitions across party lines, so that lack of bipartisanship is harming them as well.

What's going on there? Why are conservative Republicans having a tough time? It is linked to a variety of those things that we have been talking about already. The conservative turn in the Republican Party has been fairly recent across our 50 year scale. The most conservative members of the Republican Party are not particularly senior. They are not likely to hold committee chairs. As such, because we know those are key factors in moving legislation forward, the institutions are not set up to move in those new directions as strongly. Moreover, a lot of those conservative members of Congress are not doing the work of building coalitions across party lines, so that lack of bipartisanship is harming them as well.

The idea that conservative Republicans are not finding Congress very receptive to the bills they are putting forward—even when they are in the majority—helps us explain and understand why that set of individuals has been asking for more power, looking for reforms, and questioning whether the speaker is on their side. Do they have a strong case that their ideas are not moving forward through Congress? In fact, yes, they do.

Kevin Kosar:

Since we're talking about the elected officials, have any of them taken notice of these scores? What about media and voters? Are they picking up on these legislative effectiveness scores?

Craig Volden:

We release the scores at the end of each Congress—Congresses end in January, and we try to get the scores out there in February. When we do, we get a lot of press coverage. Those who are on our top 10 lists tweet about it, write that up, or promote it. And that finds its way in many cases into campaigns. High performers tend to use those scores to promote their case. I think back to the Iowa caucuses 4 years ago when Amy Klobuchar—as she was running for the Democratic nomination—had a series of t-shirts that she was handing out there saying she was the most effective Democrat in the Senate. On the other end, competitors against those who had low legislative effectiveness scores tend to use those in campaigns as well. The other way that that members and media take notice is through some of those activities and programming that we tend to do on Capitol Hill in line with our mission and with our partners. Our new member guide is there on the orientation activities that we do for newly elected members of Congress. It is not so much how can I manipulate the system to get a higher score, but how can I actually be a more effective member of Congress.

And so that advice about setting up and tailoring one's agenda and building out coalitions and all of the rest is, I think, good advice. It is now advice well-grounded in research and something that many members of Congress are paying attention to.

Kevin Kosar:

That is great: academic research that is affecting reality in a positive fashion.

There are many ways to measure our national legislature. Why is legislative effectiveness such an important concept and metric? Why is it something that you have been willing to spend so much of your time on and develop?

Craig Volden:

At the Center for Effective Lawmaking, we have a vision statement as some organizations do. We envision a Congress comprised of effective lawmakers, strong institutional capacity, and the incentive structure needed to address America's greatest public policy challenges.

I am sure your listeners would agree that we are not there yet—maybe nowhere near there yet—but our focus on legislative effectiveness and the work of our two dozen faculty affiliates seems to be offering a path forward. One of our major research endeavors is what we call our Building a Better Congress project. The Building a Better Congress project has three main buckets.

The first, what we call identification: what are the traits of people who—if they were to choose to run for Congress—would likely be effective when they're there? Our research, for example, finds that—all else equal—women are more effective than men, which could be used to help organizations that are trying to get more women to run for Congress. Our research suggests that there are certain state legislatures that are working really well as training grounds where members of Congress who come from those legislatures seem to hit the ground running. That tells us something about how our system of federalism works and could be promoted.

The first, what we call identification: what are the traits of people who—if they were to choose to run for Congress—would likely be effective when they're there? Our research, for example, finds that—all else equal—women are more effective than men,...

  continue reading

47 episode

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iconBagikan
 
Manage episode 399336086 series 2833439
Konten disediakan oleh AEI Podcasts. Semua konten podcast termasuk episode, grafik, dan deskripsi podcast diunggah dan disediakan langsung oleh AEI Podcasts atau mitra platform podcast mereka. Jika Anda yakin seseorang menggunakan karya berhak cipta Anda tanpa izin, Anda dapat mengikuti proses yang diuraikan di sini https://id.player.fm/legal.

The topic of this episode is, “What is legislative effectiveness?”

We voters often say that we want our senators and members of Congress to do things, and preferably, the right things. We tend to dislike it when we see people on Capitol Hill who are all talk and no action. And in theory, we should vote out of office those lawmakers who are ineffective.

Let me have a caveat here. To be sure, there are some legislators who have turned noise making into a profitable brand, and they do use it to get reelected again and again. But in my 20 years of watching Capitol Hill, it's my estimate that they comprise a small percentage of the total membership. Most people in Congress are, to varying degrees, trying to get things done. So how, then, are we voters supposed to tell which of these legislators are effective and which are not?

To help me answer that question, I have with me Craig Volden. He is a professor of Public Policy and Politics at the University of Virginia. Dr. Volden is the author of many publications. Critically for this podcast's purpose, he is the founder and co-director of the Center for Effective Lawmaking, which produces scores of legislator effectiveness that you can find at: thelawmakers.org.

Kevin Kosar:

Welcome to Understanding Congress, a podcast about the first branch of government. Congress is a notoriously complex institution, and few Americans think well of it. But Congress is essential to our republic. It's a place where our pluralistic society is supposed to work out its differences and come to agreement about what our laws should be.

And that is why we are here: to discuss our national legislature and to think about ways to upgrade it so it can better serve our nation. I'm your host, Kevin Kosar, and I'm a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington DC.

Welcome to the program.

Craig Volden:

Thanks so much for having me. It is a delight to join you, Kevin.

Kevin Kosar:

So let's cut straight to the topic of the program. What is legislative effectiveness?

Craig Volden:

This is something that I have been thinking about for a long time working with Professor Alan Wiseman at Vanderbilt University. We wrote a book on the subject about a decade ago called Legislative Effectiveness in the United States Congress: The Lawmakers.

In that book, we defined legislative effectiveness as, “the proven ability to advance a member's agenda items through the legislative process and into law.” So the key elements of “legislative effectiveness”—proven ability, the agenda items of the member, advancing into law—are in there.

Kevin Kosar:

So as the title of the book indicates, it really does focus on the lawmaking function of an elected official.

Craig Volden:

That's right.

And here, Alan and I founded the Center for Effective Lawmaking. And we like to stay in our lane—it is not the “Center for Effective Oversight” or “Center for Effective Communication with Constituents.” The Center is about lawmaking: what it takes to move those bills into law in the Congress and increasingly now in the state legislatures.

Kevin Kosar:

So you mentioned there was a book about a decade ago. In my intro of you, I mentioned the website, thelawmakers.org.

When did that launch, and what was the motivation behind putting that out there?

Craig Volden:

Our book came out in 2014, and there was certainly some academic interest. But there was also some broader level of interest among members of Congress, in the good governance community, and some private foundations. We were blessed enough to get some grant money and to have a conversation about whether we wanted to continue our research on effective lawmaking into the future and, if so, did we want it to be a purely academic exercise or were we interested in maybe more engagement with Congress and with the good governance community? We are both at career stages after tenure where we can combine those—do research and hopefully make that research of use to others.

As part of that, we looked into what would be the best way to make that contribution, and decided that setting up the Center for Effective Lawmaking—a partnership between Vanderbilt University and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia—made a lot of sense. We have, for example, two dozen faculty affiliates at a variety of colleges, universities, and think tanks, an annual conference, a working paper series, public release of our scores on thelawmakers.org, a small grant competition, etc.—all of the things on the research end that are really helpful to building up a community of knowledge.

On the engagement front, we—along with our good governance partner organizations—generate a new member guide and get involved in orientation materials for new members coming to Capitol Hill. We speak with a variety of organizations that are trying to get people to run for Congress who would be effective once they get there or institutional reformers who are thinking about how to how to make a better Congress.

We aim to be grounded in the research, but simultaneously be of use to the good governance community and to Congress itself.

Kevin Kosar:

Yes. A book is a static creation that cannot be updated unless you release a new edition—you cannot insert new data; you cannot put information on new members of Congress. So a website has got clear attraction to it. Everyone should know also that the website is not behind a paywall—anybody can go take a look at thelawmakers.org.

Now put in terms for non-political scientists out there, how do you measure legislative effectiveness? Do you just count the number of laws that a member's name is attached to as a sponsor or cosponsor? What is the method?

Craig Volden:

We returned to that definition—“proven ability to advance a member's agenda through the legislative process and into law”—to think clearly about how we would objectively measure that.

Prior to our work, there was just the counting up of laws. There was some subjective, “Let's do a survey and see who people think is effective.” We were more interested in a holistic measure, so we actually combine 15 metrics in a weighted average based on the number of bills that any member sponsors, how far they move through the lawmaking process, and how important they are in a substantive sense.

We track five stages of the lawmaking process. For each member of Congress, how many bills did he or she put forward as the main sponsor? But then, how many of those bills received action in committee—a hearing, a markup, a subcommittee vote? How many of them received action beyond committee on the floor of the House or the floor of the Senate—getting to a vote? How many of them passed their home chamber, and how many of them became law?

Since we know that not all of these bills are the same, we downgrade the commemorative bills (e.g., post office naming, minting of coins) and we upgrade the substantive and significant bills—those that get a lot of media attention. These five stages of the lawmaking process and three levels of bill significance combined to 15 weighted average metrics. The things that are rarer—having a law, having a substantive and significant law—then have a much greater weight on one's legislative effectiveness.

We are also recognizing that we are increasingly moving from passing stand-alone bills to conglomerations of bills and ideas into law. The omnibus budget bills or the National Defense Authorization Act (the NDAA) often has embedded within it dozens or hundreds of different pieces of legislation. We are now able to now detect that and give credit for it by using plagiarism style software to find the language that is in bills and see whether it appears in laws later on.

The data available to us is great such that on our website, we are able to give scores for every member of Congress in each Congress from the 1970s right up through the most recently completed 117th Congress and in 21 different issue areas as well. So somebody wondering, ‘Who's really getting something done on defense or in education or in health care?’ can find answers to that and a lot more on our website.

Kevin Kosar:

So I have heard your definition of legislative effectiveness, which is a very individual-centered definition. That would imply that a legislator has a certain extent of authority or power to raise their own effectiveness score. Put a different way, are the most effective legislators inevitably the individuals who lead the House of Representatives or the Senate, the power brokers, those who have been in committee chairs forever and always rack up the high score by virtue of position, or not?

Craig Volden:

We went in with the expectation that we would find that a tenth-term majority party committee chair would outscore a first term minority party member. And certainly, we find that. But what is more fascinating to us is what members do individually—what legislators can do from Day One to become more effective. We have dedicated a lot of our research around that.

Let me give a few examples. We have looked at freshman members of Congress and the congressional staff that they hire—how many years of experience on Capitol Hill did those staff members have? About a quarter of all new members of Congress hire legislative staff who have zero years of Capitol Hill experience. Others hire a very experienced staff, and those who hire an experienced staff tend to be much more effective, as you could imagine.

I mentioned that we scored people on 21 different issue areas. We also looked at the legislative portfolios that members are putting forward. Some members of Congress are generalists—they sponsor bills in 21 different issue areas. Some are much more specialists. They become the go-to person on an issue such as health or education. The most active members find that sweet spot, where they dedicate more than half of their agenda to something where they have expertise. It might be something from their background career, they have a committee assignment in that area, or their constituents care about it. They are not pulled between making electoral and lawmaking considerations, so they're really specialists in those key areas.

The third thing I would point to as an example is we find that the most effective members of Congress are pretty bipartisan. They attract to their bills members of the other party. That is certainly helpful if you are in the minority party, but what we found is that majority party members that build that broad bipartisan coalition are more effective as members of Congress, and that effectiveness has been consistent even in recent years when we know Congress has been quite polarized.

Kevin Kosar:

Yes, the bipartisan angle is important not least because the margins in the two chambers tend to be very narrow. It is not easy to get your party to be unanimous in support of something, and it is always nice if you can get support from across the aisle.

But it is inevitably a question that gets asked on Capitol Hill: when staff are shopping around a boss's bill, one of the responses they get from other offices is, “Is somebody in the other party cosponsoring or supporting this?” People want to know whether this is going to be a tough effort or an impossible one.

How often are you surprised by the results? Do you often get scores where you think, ‘I've never heard of this person, and yet this person is scoring high,’ or, ‘This person always gets media attention as a serious policymaker, but the numbers don't bear it up.’

Craig Volden:

There is some up and down by the nature of what actually became law in a given session of Congress, but we were partly surprised by the remarkable consistency of who is at the top of our lists from one Congress to the next. But we are more interested in discerning the broader patterns than the individual blips up and down, and the surprises often come to us in those patterns.

Let me give you an example of something that we have found recently and are talking about quite a bit. Over the past 50 years, when Democrats have been in the majority party, it is the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that has its most effective members. But when Republicans have been the majority party, the conservative wing of the Republican Party is actually the least effective.

What's going on there? Why are conservative Republicans having a tough time? It is linked to a variety of those things that we have been talking about already. The conservative turn in the Republican Party has been fairly recent across our 50 year scale. The most conservative members of the Republican Party are not particularly senior. They are not likely to hold committee chairs. As such, because we know those are key factors in moving legislation forward, the institutions are not set up to move in those new directions as strongly. Moreover, a lot of those conservative members of Congress are not doing the work of building coalitions across party lines, so that lack of bipartisanship is harming them as well.

What's going on there? Why are conservative Republicans having a tough time? It is linked to a variety of those things that we have been talking about already. The conservative turn in the Republican Party has been fairly recent across our 50 year scale. The most conservative members of the Republican Party are not particularly senior. They are not likely to hold committee chairs. As such, because we know those are key factors in moving legislation forward, the institutions are not set up to move in those new directions as strongly. Moreover, a lot of those conservative members of Congress are not doing the work of building coalitions across party lines, so that lack of bipartisanship is harming them as well.

The idea that conservative Republicans are not finding Congress very receptive to the bills they are putting forward—even when they are in the majority—helps us explain and understand why that set of individuals has been asking for more power, looking for reforms, and questioning whether the speaker is on their side. Do they have a strong case that their ideas are not moving forward through Congress? In fact, yes, they do.

Kevin Kosar:

Since we're talking about the elected officials, have any of them taken notice of these scores? What about media and voters? Are they picking up on these legislative effectiveness scores?

Craig Volden:

We release the scores at the end of each Congress—Congresses end in January, and we try to get the scores out there in February. When we do, we get a lot of press coverage. Those who are on our top 10 lists tweet about it, write that up, or promote it. And that finds its way in many cases into campaigns. High performers tend to use those scores to promote their case. I think back to the Iowa caucuses 4 years ago when Amy Klobuchar—as she was running for the Democratic nomination—had a series of t-shirts that she was handing out there saying she was the most effective Democrat in the Senate. On the other end, competitors against those who had low legislative effectiveness scores tend to use those in campaigns as well. The other way that that members and media take notice is through some of those activities and programming that we tend to do on Capitol Hill in line with our mission and with our partners. Our new member guide is there on the orientation activities that we do for newly elected members of Congress. It is not so much how can I manipulate the system to get a higher score, but how can I actually be a more effective member of Congress.

And so that advice about setting up and tailoring one's agenda and building out coalitions and all of the rest is, I think, good advice. It is now advice well-grounded in research and something that many members of Congress are paying attention to.

Kevin Kosar:

That is great: academic research that is affecting reality in a positive fashion.

There are many ways to measure our national legislature. Why is legislative effectiveness such an important concept and metric? Why is it something that you have been willing to spend so much of your time on and develop?

Craig Volden:

At the Center for Effective Lawmaking, we have a vision statement as some organizations do. We envision a Congress comprised of effective lawmakers, strong institutional capacity, and the incentive structure needed to address America's greatest public policy challenges.

I am sure your listeners would agree that we are not there yet—maybe nowhere near there yet—but our focus on legislative effectiveness and the work of our two dozen faculty affiliates seems to be offering a path forward. One of our major research endeavors is what we call our Building a Better Congress project. The Building a Better Congress project has three main buckets.

The first, what we call identification: what are the traits of people who—if they were to choose to run for Congress—would likely be effective when they're there? Our research, for example, finds that—all else equal—women are more effective than men, which could be used to help organizations that are trying to get more women to run for Congress. Our research suggests that there are certain state legislatures that are working really well as training grounds where members of Congress who come from those legislatures seem to hit the ground running. That tells us something about how our system of federalism works and could be promoted.

The first, what we call identification: what are the traits of people who—if they were to choose to run for Congress—would likely be effective when they're there? Our research, for example, finds that—all else equal—women are more effective than men,...

  continue reading

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