Constraining Bureaucrats Today Knowing You'll Be Gone Tomorrow: The Effect of Legislative Term Limits on Statutory Discretion

Mona Vakilifathi

Do finite time horizons constrain a legislature's ability to control the bureaucracy? I argue that legislators subject to legislative term limits enact legislation with less statutory discretion today to ensure that their preferences are implemented by the bureaucracy tomorrow since most legislators will not be around to monitor the bureaucracy over the long term. Although past works suggest that legislative term limits decrease legislatures' rate of bureaucratic oversight, I find that term-limited legislatures use ex ante means of bureaucratic control to a greater extent by granting less statutory discretion to the bureaucracy.

Wagner Faculty