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Article from Legislative Studies Quarterly analyzes CRS reports to delve into expert consultation in Congress
Thanks FirstBranchForecast for posting about this recent research and analysis about how often legislators in Congress consult expert witnesses and information. Fagan and McGee analyzed every Congressional Research Service (CRS) report at EveryCRSReport.com from 1997-2017 in order to come up with their findings.
The researchers note “Consultation between elected policymakers and experts is important to functional policymaking in a democracy…In order for elected officials to solve salient problems, they must search for subject-matter experts to define
problems and develop effective solutions.” The article of course validates what government information librarians have known for many years, that CRS reports are critical documents for legislators, students, researchers, and the public. But also that expert guidance for legislation is vital to the creation of legislation that looks to solve the country’s various problems.
*Apologies that this article is behind a paywall. If your library doesn’t have a subscription to Legislative Studies Quarterly, please do an interlibrary loan request.
Fagan, E. J., and Zachary A. McGee.
“Problem Solving and the Demand for Expert Information in Congress.”
Legislative Studies Quarterly (2020)
Data and replication materials available on Harvard’s Dataverse at https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/PAWMSP.
The demand for expert information in Congress is the topic of a new academic article written by political scientists E.J. Fagan and Zachary McGee. They analyzed all the CRS reports at EveryCRSReport.com from 1997-2017 (thank you!) to evaluate “the extent to which legislators consult expertise in order to address salient problems.” (They used our database and not Congress’s because it is a “better database, with a comprehensive list of all reports, revision history, and metadata.”) Their findings: there’s a consistent short-term relationship between demand for expert information and issues that the public lists as the most important problem facing the country.
How a complex network of bills becomes a law: GovTrack introduces new data analysis of text incorporation
Here’s a fascinating new way to look at US Congressional legislation from our friends at GovTrack.us. As Josh Tauberer explains, GovTrack’s new service “Enacted Via Other Measures,” their new data analysis of text incorporation, will now provide connections between bills — when a bill has at least about 33% of its provisions incorporated into one or more enacted bills — in order to show “how a complex network of bills becomes a law.”
No longer will legislative trackers be limited to the 6 stages in becoming a law described on Congress.gov, or even the 13 steps described by this handy infographic by Mike Wirth and Suzanne Cooper-Guasco (“How Our Laws Are Made”, First place award in the Design for America contest, 2010). Now we’ll be able to see the various pieces of bills that make it into other bills.
This is an amazing new looking glass into the legislative process. Thanks GovTrack.us!
This new analysis literally doubles our insight.
Only about 3% of bills will be enacted through the signature of the President or a veto override. Another 1% are identical to those bills, so-called “companion bills,” which are easily identified (see CRS, below). Our new analysis reveals almost another 3% of bills which had substantial parts incorporated into an enacted bill in 2015–2016. To miss that last 3% is to be practically 100% wrong about how many bills are being enacted by Congress.
And there may be even more than that, which we’ll find out as we tweak our methodology in the future.
There are so many new questions to answer:
- Who are the sources of these enacted provisions?
- How often is this cut-and-paste process cross-partisan?
- What provisions were removed from a bill to be enacted?
- Is cut-and-paste more frequent today than in the past?