Setting Parliamentary Calendars: How Parties Allocate Time for Plenary Debates on Bills

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Authors: Daniela Giannetti, Luca Pinto and Andrea Pedrazzani

Published: Political Studies, forthcoming 2015.

Abstract: Compared to other aspects of agenda control, the organisation of legislative calendars has received scarce scholarly attention. However, setting the floor timetable affects parliament’s decisions and may therefore become crucial for understanding the policy-making process better. This article examines the allocation of speaking time for plenary debates on bills by combining an interparty perspective with a focus on the agenda-setting powers of collective directing bodies in the parliament. It shows that, due to time pressures, parties have to make explicit trade-offs among bill proposals. Using an original dataset including information about 472 bill proposals scheduled for floor debates in three Italian legislative terms in the period 2001–13, the article provides evidence that parties agree to schedule longer debates for divisive and salient issues, while they decide to move more quickly on less divisive proposals.