A Direct Test of Committee Gatekeeping
77 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2018 Last revised: 16 Sep 2018
Date Written: August 3, 2018
What is the nature of agenda control in legislatures? Tests of canonical theories of gatekeeping have been limited to analyses of bills that make it through committees and are sent to the floor, making these tests vulnerable to selection bias. I overcome this problem with a novel dataset drawn from three US state legislatures (Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin) that record interest groups' positions on the bills on which they lobby lawmakers. This permits an estimation of the ideological locations of status quo policies for bills that die in legislative committees, and in turn rigorous empirical tests of agenda control theories. Unsurprisingly, I find that many bills are introduced even though they are very likely to die in committee, suggesting either uncertainty or pure position-taking by sponsors. The data provide substantial evidence of legislative gatekeeping, but can only adjudicate among different theories of gatekeeping in specific circumstances. Specifically, they corroborate partisan gatekeeping in the Iowa House and the Wisconsin Assembly, but cannot distinguish between partisan and non-partisan accounts in the Iowa Senate, the Wisconsin Senate, or the Nebraska Legislature.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation