Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

Document Type



In recent years the complexity of understanding the politics of committee assignment, has led to lively scholarly debates. At the heart of this debate lie three theories of legislative committee development: the distributive, informational, and major party cartel theory. Each of these theories attempts to explain legislative committee assignments through one single legislator motivation: legislator interest, party, or institutional interest. This dissertation argues that one single motivation as espoused in the distributive, informational, and major party cartel theory is not likely to explain all legislator committee assignments. Instead, Legislators committee assignments are likely to be a reflection of multiple motivations, thereby calling for a combination of the distributive, informational, and major party cartel theory. To address this hypothesis, this dissertation examines support for all three theories of legislative organization in the Louisiana House of Representatives. For the purposes of this dissertation, I rely on legislator membership on Louisiana’s sixteen standing committees during the 1999-2008 Louisiana House Legislature. As discussed in detail in this study, Louisiana’s non-compliance with proportional committee representation allows scholars to test the informational, distributive, and major party cartel theories with limited constraints. Second, this dissertation argues that current measurements of legislator committee preferences are incomplete. To address this problem, this dissertation provides a comprehensive measurement of legislator committee preferences based on legislator personal and constituent characteristics. This research introduces a new measurement of committee membership based on committee member Caucus membership. With this dissertation, I find support for the informational theory over the distributive theory and minimal support for the major party cartel theory. Support for the theories of legislative committee development is dependent upon the measurement used to explore the extent to which committee look like the membership of the whole chamber. I further find support for each of these theories varies across time and committee. Thereby, leading support for the hypothesis that legislators committee assignments are a reflection of multiple motivations: constituents, party, and institutional interest.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Kenny, Christopher Bennett