Winning Proposal to the Pierce Scholar's Fund: 2013 Competition

Project Title: The Electoral (Dis)connection: The Effects of Term Limits on State Legislatures

Faculty Sponsors: Rocio Titiunik

Graduate Student: Andrew Feher

Project Description

For decades political scientists studying Congress have developed theories with the assumption that legislators are primarily motivated by reelection (Mayhew 1974; Cox and McCubbins 2005). These theories, however, prove ill-equipped to shed light on one of the most significant institutional changes in American legislatures: term limits.

Since 1990, 21 states have adopted term limits.1 We wish to explore what happens when legislators are freed from reelection concerns, that is, when the electoral connection to constituents is severed. In particular, we will examine the effects of state legislative term limits at both the individual level and at the institutional level, asking what effect does term limits have (1) on legislative behavior (2) on the composition of state legislatures and (3) on the influence of other institutional actors—governors, bureaucrats and lobbyists—vis-à-vis the legislature?