by Matt Stiles, The Texas Tribune
Mark Jones, political science chair at Rice University, has released another interesting analysis of partisan behavior inside the Texas House — this time measuring the Democrats’ “stealth influence” during the 2009 legislative session.
Using the liberal-conservative score, Jones recently ranked House members’ ideology based on their voting activity. He builds on that work in a new report focusing on “partisan agenda control.” That term describes a general effort by legislative leaders at levels to limit votes on issues that are opposed by a majority of their parties’ caucuses. (They also of course seek votes on issues supported by their members).
Jones measures this phenomenon by examining data on parties getting “rolled,” a term used to describe instances in which a party majority loses a final passage vote, or “FPV.” Typically, the majority party has a much lower “roll rate” because its members are in control of the agenda, while the minority party roll rate is higher because of its relative lack of influence. Continue reading →
House Speaker 101
by Matt Stiles
A popular perception of the Texas House of Representatives in 2003 and in 2009 sees the two legislative sessions as very similar because during each there existed a Republican majority and a Republican speaker. Here I present a different vision suggesting that, in important respects, the 2009 House was very distinct from the 2003 House, with the Democratic House leadership playing a much more prominent role in 2009 than at any time since the party lost its majority status in 2003.
One of the principal ways political scientists evaluate the level of partisan agenda control exercised by the leadership in a legislature is by examining the degree to which a party is “rolled” during the final voting stage of the legislative process (commonly referred to as final passage votes or FPVs). A party is rolled when the majority of its representatives are on the losing side of an FPV.
In a partisan legislature, the speaker and his/her leadership team commonly try to keep bills opposed by the majority of their party from reaching the floor (negative agenda control) while at the same drafting legislation in such a way that it is preferred by a majority of their delegation’s members (positive agenda control). As a result, we generally expect the majority party in partisan legislatures to have a relatively low roll rate, while the minority party (whose leadership tends to lack much in the way of influence over the agenda) normally will have a higher roll rate.