Legislative Error and the “Politics of Haste”

PSC 492 Cover_Poster

Legislative Error and the “Politics of Haste”

Jonathan Lewallen, University of Texas at Austin

Legislative error is an important and understudied element of the policy process. Even simple clerical mistakes—if unnoticed before enactment—can lead to ambiguity about a law’s meaning, spark political battles concerning rulemaking and implementation, and involve the courts in statutory interpretation. Understanding how and why error occurs can help us better understand how political institutions are intertwined in the design, enactment, and implementation of public policy. This article analyzes the sources of legislative error using data on corrected legislation in the US Senate from 1981 to 2012. The author finds that Senate drafting error is related to unified control of Congress and new majority parties, inexperienced committee members, and committee workload. Funding for the Senate office that helps draft legislation also can affect legislative error. In addition to bringing in different perspectives and preferences, elections can affect a legislature’s ability to draft clear, error-free statutes.

[Read more]

PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 49 / Issue 02 / April 2016, pp 239-243 / Copyright © American Political Science Association 2016