Time, Politics, and Policies

A Legislative Year

Burdett A. Loomis

Year after year, in state after state, the end-of-session crunch sets in as legislatures wade through dozens of bills within a few days or, on occasion, a few hours. This legislative logjam, says Burdett Loomis, is one very public manifestation of a hidden but crucial element within the policy making process—timing.

We tend to think of institutions in terms of structure, most commonly as committees, staffs, and information systems, says Loomis. Less obvious, but no less significant, he contends, are the ways in which time is structured-electoral deadlines, budget cycles, and legislative closing dates.

“An exhaustive exploration, solidly grounded in elite interviews and observations of the varieties of policy that legislators grapple with. It captures the richness of the political games and the policy enterprises during a year in the life of the legislature—a finite period, but one in which time, timing, timeliness, and luck are of the essence.”

—Alan Rosenthal, author of Governors and Legislatures: Contending Powers

“Loomis’ vivid picture of a year in the life of the Kansas legislature tells why real democracy, while hardly an economical form of government, is so responsive and energetic. This book is the work of a keen and thoughtful observer of political activity in a free and robust society.”

—William K. Muir, Jr., author of Legislature: California's School for Politics

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To investigate the effects of time on legislation, Loomis observed the politics of policymaking in Kansas from May 1988 through May 1989-a year with gubernatorial campaigns and a rare surplus in the state coffers. Using specific examples, he shows how deadlines occur in regular, predictable patterns in the development of issues and in subsequent policy decisions and explains how they ultimately narrow the choices presented to any legislative body. In addition, he notes, how policymaking must balance their political interests with their policy preferences.

The legislative and executive strategies in Kansas are not isolated phenomena. Loomis's conclusions on how long-term trends, specific cycles, and deadlines combine to affect policy outcomes provide insight both for lawmaking in other states and policy making at the national level.

About the Author

Burdett Loomis, a noted scholar on legislatures and interest groups, is professor of political science at the University of Kansas. He is author of The New American Politician and Setting Course: A Congressional Management Guide and co-editor of several books, including Interest Group Politics.

Additional Titles in the Studies in Government and Public Policy Series