The “Good” Legislature

This article, based on the author’s book, Heavy Lifting: The Job of the American Legislature (CQ Press, 2004), explores the factors that indicate whether a legislature is “good” or not.  Neither a legislature’s appearance, structure, nor it’s product ought to be considered indicative. A legislature’s performance of its principal functions is what counts. Legislatures do best at representing constituencies and constituents, next best at lawmaking, and least well at balancing the power of the executive. Critical to legislative performance of the latter two functions are leadership and standing committee systems.

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About the Author
Alan Rosenthal is a professor of public policy at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University. He has worked with legislatures throughout the nation and participated in programs of the National Conference of State Legislatures and The Council of State Governments. His latest book, from which this article is drawn, is Heavy Lifting: The Job of the American Legislature (CQ Press, 2004).