Political Science 4310: Comparative State Politics

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Political Science 4310: Comparative State Politics

David J. Webber Winter 2006-07

205 Professional Bldg. Office Hours:

882-7931 W 1:30-2:30, and usually Th 1-2

E-mail: WebberD@Missouri.edu and almost anytime by appointment (e-mail me!)

Homepage: www.missouri.edu/~polidjw

(this address may soon become: web.missouri.edu/~webber)
This course will examine policy-making and public policies in the American states. We will examine emerging policy issues and political institutions in the American states but will give special emphasis to Missouri---because that is the state in which we meet and many of us reside.
The function, character, and public policy impact of the 50 American states are easy to misunderstand. For most domestic policies, the states are often in the drivers’ seat although media and public attention tends to focus on the national government that bought the car or suggested the model. Among the topics we will need to discuss this semester are: the role of the states in a federalist political system; differences among states’ political culture and political institutions; and key state policy issues (e.g. budget, education, and health).
A political science approach to understanding state politics and policy is different than participant observation or journalism. Although I’ve learned a great deal by engaging in each of those activities, the best political science goes beyond personal experience and current events to systematically describe, explain, and evaluate activities and behaviors relevant to state policy-making.
Below is a “traditional” syllabus. Usually after a few weeks, I invite a discussion of an alternative form of organization that I call the “policy task force” model. If there is considerable agreement on a class project or topics, we may modify the syllabus in an appropriate way.
Please spend some time on my website (www.missouri.edu/~polidjw) reviewing the information resources and student papers, especially the “Red States, Blue States” project under “Class Links” for examples of student papers I’ve received in recent years.

Required Books

Virginia Gray and Russell L. Hanson, editors, POLITICS IN THE AMERICAN STATES, 8th edition, CQ Press, 2004.

Carl Van Horn, ed, THE STATE OF THE STATES, 4th edition, CQ PRESS, 2006.
Course Outline



-Van Horn, “Power, Politics, and Public Policy in the States” pp. 1- 13 in Van Horn.

-Gray, “The Socioeconomic and Political Context of States” pp. 1-30 in Gray and Hanson.

-Gov. Blunt’s (and other governor’s) State of the State speech on-line (www.stateline.org).

-Skim: “Red States, Blue States” project of last year’s class (under “Class Links” on my website).

-Skim: Dautrich and Yalof, “The State of State Elections,” pp. 14-28 in Van Horn.

-Skim: Robertson, David (2004) “Bellwether Politics in Missouri,” THE FORUM (2004) vol 2 (a PDF in Course Documents on Blackboard).


-Madison, Federalist Paper #39 (“proposed constitution is republican” and “national” vs. “federal”)

Available at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html

-Madison, Federalist Paper #45 (“alleged dangers of federal constitution to states”)

-Madison, Federalist Paper #46 (influence of federal vs. state authority compared”).

-Hanson, “Intergovernmental Relations,” pp. 31-60 in Gray and Hanson.

-Nathan, Richard “Updating Theories of Federalism” –a paper presented at 2006 American Political Science Convention (a PDF uploaded as a “course document” on Blackboard).

-Pickerill, William and Cornell W. Clayton, “The Rehnquist Court and the Political Dynamics of Federalism” PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICS, June 2004. (a PDF in Course Documents).


-Hammons, Christopher W. “Was James Madison Wrong? Rethinking the American Preference for Short, Framework-Oriented Constitutions.” American Political Science Review 93 (Dec 1999):837-49. (Available at www.jstor.org)

-Skim, but become familiar with:

Missouri State Constitution available at http://www.moga.state.mo.us/homecon.asp

-Coleman, “State Government Finances: A Review of Current Conditions and the Outlook” pp. 120-140 in Van Horn.

-Garand and Baudoin, “Fiscal Policy in the American States” pp. 290- 317 in Gray and Hanson.

-Missouri State Budget (www.oa.state.mo.us/bp/budg2005) (see External Links)

-Gov. Blunt’s “Budget and Legislative Agenda (www.oa.mo.gov/bpbib2005) (External Links)

-Goertz, “State Education Policy in the New Millennium” pp. 141-166 in Van Horn.

-Wong, “The Politics of Education,” pp. 357-388 in Gray and Hanson.

-Cantor, “State Health Policy” 192-217 in Van Horn

- Arceneaux, Kevin Direct Democracy and the Link between Public Opinion and State Abortion Policy. State Politics & Policy Quarterly, Winter2002, Vol. 2 Issue 4, (a PDF in Course Document on Blackboard)

- Mooney, Christopher Z. “The Decline of Federalism and the Rise of Morality-Policy Conflict in the United States” PUBLIUS 30 (Winter 2000): 171-188 (a PDF in Course Document)


-Hamm and Moncrief, “Legislative Politics in the States,” pp. 157- 193 in Gray and Hanson

-Rosenthal, “Legislators and Legislatures” pp. 29-52 in Van Horn.

Become familiar with www.ncsl.org


-Beyle, “Being Governor” pp. 53-80 in Van Horn

-Beyle, “The Governors” pp. 194-231 in Gray and Hanson

-Elling, “Administering State Programs,” pp. 261- 289 in Gray and Hanson.

Become familiar with www.NGA.org

-Baum, “State Courts and Their Political Environment” pp. 81-100 in Van Horn.

-Glick, “Courts: Politics and the Judicial Process,” pp. 232- 260 in Gray and Hanson.

A Note about Class Procedure

I advocate of active learning. I know people learn best when they are motivated, interested in the subject matter, and actively interact with other people interested in the topic. Reading, thinking, discussing, and writing are the principal activities of learning.

My ideal class consists of about 15-20 well-read, highly motivated students who devote much of their semester to developing a deep understanding of state politics and policy. They would pose questions to which I don’t immediately know the answers, demand outside speakers, and request to visit real live policy-makers. The class would be similar to a citizen board or commission and I would be the executive director. It would be more like a real world policy making task force than “just another class needed for graduation.” I’ve been lucky—over the past 25 years this has happened more than you might expect.

Writing is probably the most critical activity of learning. Reading is important but it is too passive to motivate most people to think hard thoughts. Writing causes a person to re-think, re-consider, and reconcile information, arguments, and evidence which he or she has read. I believe in writing. A day without writing is like a day without running.

This course requires academic and professional writing, i.e. writing that is clear and crisp and is used to develop a well-organized and thoughtful argument. Good ideas can easily be diluted by bad writing. Split infinitives don’t bother me but incomplete and awkward sentences do. The form of documentation and citation is less important than the quality of the idea and evidence. While one can get ideas from newspapers and random websites these are usually NOT credible sources for an academic paper.

This course requires your attention and participation. You will be able to more easily make sense out of this course if you get involved from the beginning of the semester.

You will be subscribed to Blackboard (//blackboard.Missouri.edu) for this course. You will need to make appropriate use of it during the semester.

Staying Informed about Missouri, the Legislature, and other States

All students are expected to follow current public affairs by reading quality printed news sources such as the St. Louis POST DISPATCH, The WASHINGTON POST and the NEW YORK TIMES and receiving quality electronic media such as C-SPAN, CNN, and the zillion information sources available on the internet. For your convenience I have established a homepage (www.missouri.edu/~polidjw) with links to major government, news and public policy organizations. You should visit regularly www.ncsl.org, www.nga.org, and www.stateline.org

The two best website offering Missouri political and policy information are www.johncombest.com and the Missouri Digital News (www.mdn.org).
Traditional Course Requirements
There are four formal written assignments (total of 350 points) and two exams (total of 250 points) as well as five required acts of participation (possible 50 points) for a total of 650 points.
A. Non-traditional participation (usually 0, 30, 40, or 50 points)
There are five non-traditional responsibilities of this course, all of which must be completed satisfactorily to receive 50 points for participation:
1. Post several current events, or otherwise informative, items on Blackboard for everyone in the class to read.
2. Use Blackboard to augment class discussion.
3. Participate actively in class discussion.
4. Post a two-page outline for your policy memo by Tuesday, March 20, 11:59PM. This outline must include: 1) a tentative title, (2) a “problem statement” or “research question, (3) a list of five credible sources, three of which you have held in your hands, (4) possible findings of your research, and (5) a statement of your personal interest in the topic. (This item counts for half (25 of 50) points for non-traditional participation.
5. Post ALL written assignments in a timely fashion.

B. Written Assignments (a total of 350 possible points)

1. Essay—"Challenges facing Missouri" (worth up to 50 points)
Write a 1000 word essay identifying several policy and political problems you believe Missouri and other states will need to address over the next decade. This essay is due in class on Monday, January 29 and must be posted on Blackboard by 11:59 PM that evening.
2. Summary Memo (50 points)

Write a 1000 word essay describing the policy and political concerns identified by students in this class in their essays “Challenges facing Missouri.” Comment on the quality and relevance of the essays taken as a whole. This essay is due Monday, February 12. Post your summary memo by 11:59 that evening.

3. Article Review essay (100 points)

Write a 4-5 page review and synthesis of an article in an academic political science journal describing, explaining, and evaluating a political or policy problem facing several states. Suitable journals are STATE POLITICS AND POLICY QUARTERLY, STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT REVIEW, PUBLIUS, LEGISLATIVE STUDIES QUARTERLY, POLICY STUDIES JOURNAL, and the REVIEW OF POLICY RESEARCH, all but the last are available in Ellis. The prudent person would show me the article before she/her writes the assignment. (If you do not select an appropriate article in an appropriate political science journal, then you will receive a ZERO.)

Your review is to be useful to other students in the class so you must either provide them a paper copy or post it to Blackboard. This is due Monday, March 12. It must be posted on Blackboard by 11:59 that night.
4. Political or Policy Reform Analysis (worth up to 150 points).

Write about a 10 page memo analyzing the impact of a specific policy or political reform that could be adopted by Missouri and other states. This analysis must have a one page summary suitable for a busy legislator and is due Monday, April 24.

Use political science journals, think tanks, interest groups and government information sources, NOT NEWSPAPERS AND MEDIA LINKS, in this policy memo.
See #4 Non-Traditional Participation—outline due March 20.
C. Exams (total of 250 possible points)
1. The first exam will be concerned with important aspects of the American and state policy-making process. The format will be concept identification and short essay and the exam is scheduled for Friday, February 24 and is worth up to 100 points.
2. The final exam will be comprehensive and will consist of identification and essay questions asking you to synthesize the material covered in the course including the policy-making simulation. This exam will be given at the officially scheduled time (Monday, May 7 10:30) and is worth up to 150 points.

Final Grades will be assigned according to the following scale (with possible slight downward modification depending on the class distribution):

Over 93 percent is an A;

90-92 is an A-;

87-89 is B+;

84-86 percent is a B

80-83 is a B- and so on.

Late papers are penalized and missed exams are seldom deemed to be worthy of a makeup. If a paper or exam is not completed it will be awarded a "0" and the final grade will be computed according to the scale above. It is very unlikely that an "incomplete" would be given in this course.

A Note about Class Attendance

Because of the interactive and participatory nature of the course, class attendance is mandatory. Students with excessive absences (i.e. > 6 missed classes) will be dropped from the course. Habitual tardiness or early departure counts as an absence. There are either NO or SIX excused absences, depending on your point of view. Don’t use up your absences and then have a medical emergency.

University Regulations

In accordance with MU regulations I work to punish those who cheat and to assist those who have disabilities. Please contact me as soon as possible if you need classroom accommodations.

A Note about the Use of Technology

I encourage the responsible and effective use of technology in education. I am an avid e-mailer. I use the internet everyday. However, I am increasingly concerned about the negative aspects of electronic communications. Therefore, the following guidelines have become necessary:

1. Use e-mail and Blackboard often but no as a substitute for class discussion and direct conversation.
2. Do not let the haphazard information available on the internet displace the refined, copyedited, and revised information contained in more traditional outlets. When used in an educational setting, websites are supplements to traditional information sources. Information technology should aid us in thinking hard, not replace our thinking. As a general rule, newspaper articles uncovered in Google searchers are not CREDIBLE sources for academic papers.

After more than five years of frustration, I have finally figured out how to explain the differences about information sources, the limitations of some internet sources, and the pitfalls of “writing academic papers in the internet age.”

3. Only post to Blackboard comments you would say in class. Computer technology is a harsh technology. Be careful that a quick response is not harsher than you mean it to be. Flaming is unacceptable.
4. Do not submit an assigned paper by fax or e-mail. I will not post grades to Blackboard or discuss them via e-mail.
5. Do not leave phone messages because you are afraid to come and face the music. Late night phone messages informing me you are sick do not mean you have permission to miss the test or turn your paper in late. I do not play phone tag. If you do not catch me in my office, PLEASE e-mail me and I will respond.
Important Dates

Monday, Jan 29 --Essay, "Challenges facing Missouri and other states,” is due.

Monday, Feb 12—Essay, “Summary Memo”

Friday, February 23--midterm exam

Monday, March 12--Review Essay due

Tuesday, March 20, 11:59PM—Policy memo due.

Monday, April 23-- Political or Policy Reform paper due

Monday, May 7, 10:30. Final Exam

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