American Government and Politics

Picking up the Slack: Bureaucratic Rulemaking in Times of Legislative Inaction



Bureaucratic rulemaking is a crucial aspect of American policymaking. We argue bureaucratic policymaking is particularly significant when legislatures are unable or unwilling to pass legislation. To test this hypothesis, we leverage an original dataset containing all rules proposed by bureaucratic agencies in three states over a ten-year period. We combine this with information about divided government and legislative session calendars in each state to identify periods of gridlock or recess when legislatures are less likely to produce legislation. With this data, we investigate whether rulemaking activity increases during periods of legislative inaction. Our results are supportive—during periods of divided government or a split legislature, state bureaucracies issue significantly more proposed rules. Moreover, state bureaucracies are most productive during periods of legislative recess. These results underscore the importance of bureaucratic policymaking as a key feature of governance and improve our understanding of the balance of power between branches of state governments.


Thumbnail image of Bark, Ter-Mkrtchyan, and Bell.pdf


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