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PPA 503 – The Public Policy-Making Process

PPA 503 – The Public Policy-Making Process. Lecture 3a – Official and Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy. Introduction. Political science traditions.

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PPA 503 – The Public Policy-Making Process

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  1. PPA 503 – The Public Policy-Making Process Lecture 3a – Official and Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy

  2. Introduction • Political science traditions. • Institutionalism – focus on texts of constitutions, laws, and other written statements of policies and the relationships between formal government institutions. • Behaviorism – focus on political motivations of individuals, acting singly and in groups, often through polling, game theory, and statistical techniques. • Neo-institutionalism – focus on organizations and systems in which individuals interact and achieve political and policy goals through explicit or implicit rules and operating procedures.

  3. Introduction • Main categories of actors in the policy process. • Official actors – statutory or constitutional responsibilities. • Legislative, executive, and judiciary. • Unofficial actors – participation with no explicit legal authority. • Interest groups, media.

  4. Legislatures • First listed branch in the federal and most state constitutions. • Source of considerable research. • Primary function is lawmaking. Number of bills and resolutions gives some idea of how busy legislatures are.

  5. Legislatures

  6. Legislatures • Burden eased by staff. • Bills sifted by committee structure at both the federal and state level. • Committee chairs wield significant power. • Most bills fail to move past their first committee hurdles because they are largely symbolic gestures.

  7. Legislatures • Other critical functions performed by legislators that affect public policy. • Casework – activities to help constituents with government agencies or to gain a privilege or benefit. • Supports reelection. • Oversight – Monitor the implementation of public policy. • Government Accountability Office – Studies public programs and makes recommendations to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability. • Public hearings. • Help understand issues. • Reveal shortcomings in current policies. • Make political capital.

  8. Legislative Organization

  9. Legislative Organization • California process. •

  10. Legislative Organization • What you see on C-SPAN does not represent the bulk of legislative action on policy. • Most of the critical work on public policy is done in committees, which review legislation, propose and vote on amendments, and, in the end, decide whether a bill will die at the committee level or be elevated for consideration by the full body. • One of the most critical elements of legislative organization is the organization on party lines.

  11. Legislature – Critiques of Public Policy Process • Many people argue that legislatures are out of touch with the people. • To understand why legislatures work as they do, you need to understand two elements of the legislature: the nature of the members of the body and the organization and nature of the branch itself.

  12. Legislature – Critiques of Public Policy Process • The primary goal of the typical legislator is reelection. Casework allows legislators to please voters. • Home style and hill style. • Legislatures are decentralized institutions, especially Congress. • Committees and subcommittees. • Decentralization and centralization of party leadership. • Issue networks and policy subsystems.

  13. Legislatures – Implications for Policy Making • Decentralization and casework focus makes complex and change-oriented legislation difficult to pass.

  14. The Executive Branch • For the sake of discussion, the executive branch can be considered in two parts: the administration, staff, and appointees; and the bureaucracy. • Advantages of an elected executive in the policy process. • Veto power. • Unitary branch of government. • Media and public attention. • Informational advantage over the legislature.

  15. The Executive Branch • Elected executive limitations. • “Power to persuade”. • The size of the Executive Office of the President. • Elected executive’s focus on agenda-setting.

  16. Administrative Agencies and Bureaucrats • Characteristics of bureaucracy. • Fixed and official jurisdictional areas. • Hierarchical organization. • Written documentation. • Expert training of staff. • Career, full-time occupation. • Standard operating procedures. • Key complaints about bureaucracy. • Size. • Red tape.

  17. Administrative Agencies and Bureaucrats • What Do Government Agencies Do? • Government agencies provide services that are uneconomical for the private sector (public goods – free-rider problem). • Public goods are indivisible and nonexclusive. • Complaints tend to focus on speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of public service delivery.

  18. Administrative Agencies and Bureaucrats • Bureaucracy and the problem of accountability. • The key problem is the question of accountability. Most public employees are appointed on merit, not accountability to elected officials. • Early thinking focused on separation of politics and administration. • Modern thinking: Agency decisions are political and in the realm of administrative discretion. • Problem: no single, agreed-upon definition of the public interest. • Administrative discretion: ability to make decisions with minimal interference.

  19. The Courts • The ability to interpret legislative and executive actions: judicial review. • Courts are the weakest because their authority rests on the legitimacy of the law and their ability to argue their case. • Legislatures and executives initiate public policy, while courts react to the practical effects of such policies.

  20. Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy • Individual citizens. • Low political participation. • Voting. • Other forms of participation: campaigning, contacting, etc. • Despite this, citizens can be mobilized: • Recall election in California. • Generally speaking, individuals want the most services for ourselves while paying the least taxes for those services.

  21. Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy • Interest groups. • Interest groups have been part of the political scene since the founding. • Madison and the dangers of faction. • Since the 1960s the number of groups has greatly expanded. • Transportation, mass communication, expansion of government. • Few legal barriers to the creation of groups.

  22. Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy • Interest groups. • The power of interest groups varies. • Knowledge, money, information. • Group size, peak associations. • Intensity, direct economic interest, ideological commitment. • Social movements (combinations of interest groups).

  23. Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy • Types of interest groups. • Institutional versus membership groups. • Economic (private) versus public interest versus ideological groups. • Benefits, free-rider problems. • Activities of interest groups. • Lobbying. • Campaign contributions. • Access (well-off). • Mass mobilization, protest, and litigation. • Riots and protest marches.

  24. Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy • Political parties. • Functions. • Voting cues. • Transmission of political preferences. • Creation of packages of policy ideas. • Organization of the legislative branch. • Think tanks and other research organizations. • Brookings, Cato, Urban Institute, Rand, American Enterprise Institute. • Ideological, scholarly, and methodological distinctions.

  25. Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy • Communications media. • The news media are important actors in the policy process. • Newspapers – National versus regional versus local. • TV is the central news medium. Older population, networks; younger population, cable news. • Entertainment programming can be equally important. • Movies, t.v., videogames. • Media’s primary function in policy process is agenda-setting. Media coverage correlates with institutional attention.

  26. Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy • Communications media. • News media are not just passive actors. • Interest try to arouse media focus. • Time and space constraints require discretion. • Profit-driven businesses. • Competitive biases of news gathering: dramatic and narrative qualities of the story.

  27. Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy • Subgovernments, issue networks, and domains. • Policy domain is the substantive area of policy over which participants in policy-making compete and compromise. • The political culture and legal environment influence the domains. • Policy community inside the domain consists of the actors actively involved in policy making in that domain. • Iron triangles one way of organizing the policy community. • Issue networks may be more accurate description.

  28. Unofficial Actors and Their Roles in Public Policy • Subgovernments, issue networks, and domains. • Prying open policy networks (major corporate interests usually dominate). • But, policy change is possible by prying open a domain. • Focusing events. • Social movements and mobilization. • Exploiting the decentralization of American government. • Going public.

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