“Do Electorally-Vulnerable Legislators Prefer to Grant More or Less Statutory Discretion?”

Mona Vakilifathi

What is the effect of a change in individual-level electoral competition on a reelection-seeking legislator’s preference for statutory discretion in legislation? I utilize a natural experiment in the California State Senate during the 2011-12 regular legislative session to test the effect of a change in a reelection-seeking State Senator’s electoral competition on statutory discretion in her introduced legislation before and after the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s inaugural release of the state’s legislative district maps in summer 2011. I find that an increase in individual-level electoral competition results in a decrease in statutory discretion in an election year compared to a non-election year. If an electorally vulnerable legislator is less certain she will win in the upcoming election, the results demonstrate that she prefers to grant less statutory discretion in legislation to credit claim and maximize campaign contributions with interest groups.

Wagner Faculty