Jorge M. Fernandes (ICS), Max Goplerud (Harvard) & Miguel Won (INESC-ID), “Legislative Bellwethers: The Role of Committee Membership in Parliamentary Debate” (May 18th, 2017).

Jorge presented this paper. Here’s the abstract:

“Legislative debate serves a number of crucial purposes for parties in parliamentary systems; debates are used to cultivate the party’s reputation, challenge its rivals, engage in coalition management, amongst many other tasks. However, it is not often noted that that doing this effectively tends to require detailed knowledge of particular policies that is costly to acquire. We extend the ‘informational’ perspective on committees to parliamentary systems to suggest that parties resolve this problem using committees. We contend that they assign members to committees to encourage them to acquire specific expertise that is then used in parliamentary debates to benefit the party as a whole. We further suggest that tensions between coalition partners increases the need to rely on experts. To test our theory, we rely on a novel method for assessing the context of legislative speech; we rely on a supervised learning method to map speeches onto committee jurisdictions using the text of bills as the training data. We apply this procedure to the Portuguese Parliament from 2000 to 2015, leveraging variation in the political environment as well as institutional features that lead to the parties being the predominant actors in political life.”

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