Institutional Change in American Politics: The Case of Term Limits

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Karl T. Kurtz, Bruce E. Cain, Richard G. Niemi
University of Michigan Press, Dec 18, 2009 - Political Science - 240 pages

Legislative term limits adopted in the 1990s are in effect in fifteen states today. This reform is arguably the most significant institutional change in American government of recent decades. Most of the legislatures in these fifteen states have experienced a complete turnover of their membership; hundreds of experienced lawmakers have become ineligible for reelection, and their replacements must learn and perform their jobs in as few as six years.

Now that term limits have been in effect long enough for both their electoral and institutional effects to become apparent, their consequences can be gauged fully and with the benefit of hindsight. In the most comprehensive study of the subject, editors Kurtz, Cain, and Niemi and a team of experts offer their broad evaluation of the effects term limits have had on the national political landscape.

"The contributors to this excellent and comprehensive volume on legislative term limits come neither to praise the idea nor to bury it, but rather to speak dispassionately about its observed consequences. What they find is neither the horror story of inept legislators completely captive to strong governors and interest groups anticipated by the harshest critics, nor the idyll of renewed citizen democracy hypothesized by its more extreme advocates. Rather, effects have varied across states, mattering most in the states that were already most professionalized, but with countervailing factors mitigating against extreme consequences, such as a flight of former lower chamber members to the upper chamber that enhances legislative continuity. This book is must reading for anyone who wants to understand what happens to major institutional reforms after the dust has settled."
---Bernard Grofman, Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor of Economics, School of Social Sciences, University of California, Irvine

"A decade has passed since the first state legislators were term limited. The contributors to this volume, all well-regarded scholars, take full advantage of the distance afforded by this passage of time to explore new survey data on the institutional effects of term limits. Their book is the first major volume to exploit this superb opportunity."
---Peverill Squire, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Iowa

Karl T. Kurtz is Director of the Trust for Representative Democracy at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Bruce Cain is Heller Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, and the Director of the University of California Washington Center.

Richard G. Niemi is Don Alonzo Watson Professor of Political Science at the University of Rochester.


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Introduction Karl T Kurtz Richard G Niemi and Bruce Cain
1 Term Limits in State Legislatures Jennie Drage Bowser and Gary Moncrief
2 Composition of Legislatures Gary Moncrief Lynda W Powell and Tim Storey
3 Constituent Attention and Interest Representation Lynda W Powell Richard G Niemi and Michael Smith
4 Legislative Leadership Thomas H Little and Rick Farmer
5 Committees Bruce Cain and Gerald Wright
6 Legislative Staff Brian Weberg and Karl T Kurtz
7 Legislative Climate David R Berman
9 ExecutiveLegislative Relations Richard J Powell
10 Budgets and the Policy Process Thad Kousser and John Straayer
11 Education and Training of Legislators Alan Rosenthal
12 Conclusion and Implications Bruce Cain Karl T Kurtz and Richard G Niemi

8 Lobbyists and Interest Groups Christopher Z Mooney

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About the author (2009)

Richard G. Niemi is Don Alonzo Watson Professor of Political Science at the University of Rochester, where he has taught for forty-five years and has served as department chair, associate dean for graduate studies, and interim dean. He earned his PhD from the University of Michigan in 1967. Professor Niemi has been a Guggenheim fellow and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Lund (Sweden) and at the University of Iowa. In 2007 2009 he was president of the American Political Science Association s Section on State Politics and Policy. He is a foreign member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of numerous works on political socialization, civic education, voting behavior, and various aspects of state politics. He has an ongoing interest in the Native Americans of upstate New York and Wisconsin, from whom he can trace a portion of his ancestry.

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