How Policy Makers Vote
Objective: The objective for this assignment is for students to understand and critically analyze the multiple pressures on policy makers in Texas as they most listen to their leaders, the governor, the voters (social responsibility) and their own conscience (personal responsibility) in deciding how to cast their vote on a controversial issue.
Scenario for the assignment:
“You have recently been elected as a Republican to the Texas House of Representatives from a competitive district (even number of Democrats, Republicans and Independents) just outside of Dallas. One of the first bills that you must vote on is House Bill 3- a Bill to prohibit any Texan without a valid US birth Certificate from receiving any state benefits, including welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare. Your constituents support the bill as does the Governor your party, but you oppose it on grounds that such limits are unconstitutional (and morally wrong). The Speaker of the House opposes the bill as well”.
1. Write a paper that answers the questions below.
2. In explaining how you will vote on the bill, be sure to explain the following:
- What Representational Role you will adopt (trustee or delegate).
- How will the Speaker of the House, the Lt. Governor and Governor of Texas influence the fate of the bill?
- How do you think constituents might try to influence your vote?
- Which factors noted above and in your notes (constituents, governor, party leaders and your own opinion) will influence your vote? Rank them in importance.
- Will you vote for or against the bill? Please explain your answer thoroughly. You should refer back to the representational role here.
3. The paper should include subject headers (ie. Representational Roles, Influence of Legislative Leaders, etc.)
How Policy Makers Vote
Democracy entails the election of a group of individuals who exercise decision-making authority on behalf of the larger constituency that elected them. Such decision-making occurs at different levels, including the executive level and the legislative level. While the decision-making authority leaders are exercising stems from their constituents, there are nonetheless several other influences, including their political alignments as well as expert opinions. The current scenario involves a controversial bill that seeks to bar individuals lacking a valid US birth certificate from receiving state benefits. The decision will be based on several factors, which are now discussed.
While acting in their capacity as legislators, elected representatives may act as delegates, or as trustees. As a delegate, the elected official acts principally on the preferences of their constituents, and downplay their personal preferences. As a trustee, in contrast, officials are perceived to have the freedom to act to the contrary of the interests of their constituents, if they feel that their constituents are mistaken (Janda, Berry, Goldman & Schildkraut, 2015). My representational role will be a trustee. The people have voted me in not just to represent, but because they trust me to make the right decisions guided by logic and rationale.
Influence of Legislative Leaders
The various legislative leaders will have different influences on the fate of the bill. The office of the Lieutenant Governor is an executive branch position. The Lieutenant Governor, ironically, is however the most powerful legislator. He is tasked with several duties such as the appointment of committees. He can influence the fate of the bill in several ways, such as a determination of the order of consideration. Ultimately, however, the Lieutenant Governor determines the fate of the bill through his vote, whereby he has the capacity to cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie (Ballotpedia, 2017). Other powers include signing the bill. The Speaker also exercises a considerable amount of influence over the bill. He can vote on a bill. More importantly, the speaker can refer a bill to any committee of his choosing (Texas Politics, 2005). The significance of this power is exemplified by the fact that the Speaker makes all committee appointments. The net effect is that the speaker can direct legislation to that committee which will likely produce the outcome that he desires.
Other influences stem from the governor. The governor has significant power over a bill since he can veto it. The Legislature has the capacity to override a veto but this case seldom occurs. According to Texas Politics (2005), the very brief term of the legislature denies it the opportunity to exercise a two-third majority vote in overriding a veto. Another influence stems from the leadership of political parties. In several instances individuals vote based on how their political leaders tell them to vote (Center on Representative Government, 2017). Thus, a member of a party is expected to toe the party line and vote in accordance to the party’s position.
Influence of Constituents
Apart from the above legislative leaders, another important group is the constituency that elects a leader. As earlier noted, an elected representative is expected to vote in accordance to the wishes of those who voted him/her in, particularly where this individual is viewed as a delegate. Constituents may try to influence a member in several ways, such as by calling the member. According to Bergan (2015), members of the congress who received calls from their constituents asking them to vote for a certain bill were 11-12% more likely to vote for this bill.
Rank of Influences
Constituents – I consider this factor to be the most important factor. The constituents voted from me and it is important to ensure that I have their interests at heart.
Personal opinion – This will be the second factor. As a trustee, my personal opinion plays a very important role in ensuring that I safeguard what I believe are the best interest for my constituents. I owe them a duty of this capacity.
Political party – My party affiliation is also important. I am a member of my party due to shared ideals and consequently, the views of the party are of significance.
Governor- This would be my last consideration. The governor runs the executive arm and my responsibility extends to overseeing him. I have a greater duty to the above institutions that to the office of the governor.
Having reviewed the bill, I will vote No. While my
constituents would want me to vote yes, I am a trustee and not a delegate.
Consequently, I have a duty to vote in accordance with what I believe to be the
best interest for my constituents. The bill
would have detrimental outcomes on some individuals in the society. I hold a
higher duty to the constitution, which I must uphold hence my vote.
Ballotpedia. (2017). Lieutenant Governor of Texas. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from https://ballotpedia.org/Lieutenant_Governor_of_Texas
Bergan, D. (2015, May 01). Constituent contacts can influence how legislators vote. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2015/04/29/constituent-contacts-can-influence-how-legislators-vote/
Janda, K., Berry, J. M., Goldman, J., & Schildkraut, D. (2015). The challenge of democracy: American government in global politics. Cengage Learning.
Texas Politics. (n.d.). Speaker of the House of Representatives. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from https://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/0602.html
Texas Politics. (n.d.). Texas Politics – The Legislative Branch. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from https://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/print_leg.html#85
The Center on Representative Government. (n.d.). How a Member Decides to Vote. Retrieved September 07, 2017, from http://corg.indiana.edu/how-member-decides-vote