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Numerous scholars have argued that highly autonomous executives are a threat to democracy, which makes understanding the conditions surrounding the use of unilateral action an important topic for research. Accordingly, I turn to the American states for analysis and have compiled an original dataset of all unilateral actions taken by governors in the 50 U.S. states from 2010 through 2014. In my first dissertation essay, I find that unilateral action is not only a means to circumvent a hostile legislature, but is also deployed in ways that are potentially beneficial. My second essay critically engages extant work to show that conflicting accounts about the reasons for unilateral action stems from the fact that most researchers assume that all "significant" executive orders are equal in terms of policy content. In my final dissertation essay, I argue that executive term limits encourage unilateral action and undermine inter-branch bargaining because they force a governor out of office precisely when she is most willing and able to bargain with the legislature. I find that governors with term limits issue more executive orders at every year in their tenure than those without.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Political Science in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Robert E. Crew, Jr., Professor Directing Dissertation; Lance DeHaven Smith, University Representative; Amanda Driscoll, Committee Member; Carol Weissert, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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