Legislative processes as sequences. Exploring temporal patterns of Italian law-making by means of sequence analysis

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Author: Enrico Borghetto


As Arthur Bentley (1908) recalled more than a century ago: “Most bills that become laws do so after a fight with other bills for space in the calendar, rather than after a fight with an opposition of a more direct kind”. Then as now, the matter of competition is time, one of the scarcest resources in parliamentary settings. So far existing research has mainly focused on the factors accelerating/slowing the adoption of bills, thus giving central place to political factors such as the preferences of veto actors. This work contributes to existing research on the duration of legislative processes by focusing on a relatively neglected issue: variation in the temporal patterns of adoption. Indeed, legislative processes can be understood as sequences of stages a bill has to go through before its final adoption. Remarkably, the time spent in each of these stages varies considerably according to procedural, bill-specific and political factors. This work aims at exploring what are the most common patterns and what attributes distinguish them. The time trajectories of legislative processes will be compared by using the tools of sequence analysis, a method commonly employed for the study of occupational histories or life courses. The analysis will be conducted on all legislative acts adopted in Italy from 1987 to 2008.

Link to Working Paper