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Call for Proposals: State and Local Government Review

2016 Special Issue on Political and Ideological Polarization and Its Impact on Subnational Governments

Michael J. Scicchitano, University of Florida, Editor

Political and Ideological polarization in the United States is evident at all levels of government—federal, state and local.  While this polarization is interesting from a political or electoral perspective, it also has profound implications for governance.  The impacts are certainly felt at each level of government but also through the intergovernmental system.

There are at least four plausible dimensions or scenarios resulting from political and ideological polarization.  First, polarization at the national level can have a rippling effect on state and local governments.  Perhaps the most obvious example would be in a policy area like immigration, once thought to be the province of the federal government, where pressing problems associated with it must be resolved by state and local governments since the federal government has been unwilling or unable to craft solutions.  Witness the actions of a number of states that have tried going it alone in dealing with the fallout of no federal government action to deal with the issue of illegal immigration.  Other examples can be found in policy areas (e.g., homeland security, transportation, education, health care, taxation, and economic inequality) where over the years the federal government has articulated an express and overriding interest via federal fiscal assistance or mandates.  Here again, the inability of the federal government to craft realistic solutions or instead sends mixed signals ultimately means that these problems are passed down to the states and even to local governments where they cannot be ignored.  Examples abound like the federal government keeping school districts across the nation in limbo about compliance with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by procrastinating for years in renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  Another example has been Congressional delay in enacting legislation (referred to as a marketplace fairness act) that would produce much-needed additional revenue for state and local governments from Internet sales and other out-of-state retailers.

Another dimension can be seen where political and ideological polarization occurs within a state, and pressing public issues are eventually devolved downward to local government as well as to school districts and special districts.  Polarization within a state sometimes leads to preemption of local authority and can lead to states taking over authority from local government for service delivery, reassigning functional responsibility, and prohibiting certain local government actions.  Some recent examples include: State of Michigan exercising oversight authority in the provision of water in the City of Flint; State of Michigan overseeing the entire operation of the City of Detroit; States of Pennsylvania and South Carolina, among others, assuming direct control of failing schools; State of Florida seeking to exercise complete regulatory authority over fracking in cities and counties; and a number of states prohibiting local governments from enacting ordinances to increase minimum wages.

A third dimension could take the form of political and ideological polarization between Red and Blue states.  This can be seen in the diverse state laws dealing with abortion LGBT rights.  States with either Democratic or Republican unified leadership control have enacted starkly contrasting legislation in these two controversial policy areas.  That is, Republican states have very restricted policies, while Democratic states have very liberal laws.  What happens when people migrate from one state to another and the issue of recognition of other states’ law come into question?  Will they ignore other states’ enactments or ignore/defy them?

Yet, another dimension of political and ideological polarization can be played out exclusively at the local level, with repercussions felt there.  More specifically, local government elected legislative bodies may have members who promote strongly particular issues of ideological or even political perspectives.  As a result, debates among the commission/council members (or school or special districts boards) may be conflictual and protracted.  Reaching some consensus and making decisions may be difficult.  Professional managers (and their staffs0 may find it difficult to govern or even find the job security needed to be effective in this type setting.

The goal of the 2016 State and Local Government Review Special Issue is to publish research that examines the impact of political and ideological polarization on governance at the state or local level and in the intergovernmental system.  We welcome manuscripts that address these and related scenarios that are triggered by polarization.  Below are some specific examples that would be appropriate for the 2015 Special Issue:

  • In what ways did polarization affect the delayed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School program and then influence the provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015?
  • In what ways did polarization affect the delayed reauthorization of the surface transportation program and then influence the provisions of the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015?
  • In light of the 2016 passage of the Internet Tax Freedom Act and Congress’s failure to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, how is polarization positively and negatively affecting state and local taxation powers and revenues?
  • To what extent is party polarization over economic inequality positively or negatively affecting states and especially local governments in terms of their ability to foster economic growth and alleviate poverty?
  • How is the growing polarization affecting policymaking in the federal government and on the U.S. Supreme Court, especially the ability of state and local governments to influence federal policymaking?
  • How is the growing polarization between blue and red states affecting the diffusion of innovations? To what extent are blue and red states adopting or not adopting their respective innovations?
  • How is polarization shaping innovative state policy-making from marijuana legalization and environmental regulation to abortion restrictions and voter ID laws?
  • In light of the severe FY 2016 budget standoffs in Illinois and Pennsylvania, how is party polarization affecting state budgeting across the country?
  • What role is polarization playing in state preemptions of local authority to set higher minimum wages, regulate fracking, refuse to accept marijuana shops, and the like, and what role is it playing in state takeovers of distressed municipalities (e.g., Detroit and Flint) and school districts?
  • To what extent, if any, are county commissions and city councils polarizing along lines of party rather than personality, and how is this polarization affecting local governance?

Please submit a proposal that outlines a specific topic that conveys how state and local governments have been affected by political and ideological polarization and how they have responded to this phenomenon.  Clearly outline the empirical basis for the manuscript, and if your paper is data driven, please indicate whether data have already been collected.  Also, identify the current status of the research and writing and the extent to which the manuscript can be completed according to the schedule outlined below.

We encourage proposals from all disciplines including but not limited to public administration, political science, sociology, economics, planning, etc. and expect to publish papers where there is collaboration between academics and practitioners and authors both from inside and outside the U.S.

Note:  Acceptable topics are not limited to those listed above.

Proposals should be submitted between March 7, 2016 and May 1, 2016 to the following email address:  slgrspecial@gmail.com

The proposals should be double-spaced and include no more than two pages of text.  There is no need to include tables or appendices and references do not count against the two-page limit. All proposals will be subject to editorial review.  Please do not send complete papers—if you have a draft of your paper, please note that in the proposal.

Submissions will be evaluated with respect to the following criteria:

  • The proposed manuscript should examine issues related to how subnational governments have been affected by economic polarization and how they have responded to this phenomenon.
  • The proposal should represent an achievable manuscript project within the tight time constraints required. More detail on the timeline is provided below.
  • Scope of Interest. Papers of broad interest to scholars and professionals will be preferred.
  • Organization and Coherence. The proposal should follow a logical structure, read clearly, and thoroughly represent the available research.
  • Insight for Future Work. The proposal should convey important implications for both future research and practice related to local government.

Due to editorial constraints, it is vital for authors to adhere to the following strict timeline.  We will not be able to consider late submissions. If you have any questions, please contact the Editor at mscicc@ufl.edu or by phone at (352) 846-2874.

Relevant dates* are as follows:

  • March 7- June 1, 2016: Proposals due to the State and Local Government Review to be sent to slgrspecial@gmail.com
  • June 15, 2016: Final decision on proposals and initial feedback provided to authors.
  • August 1, 2016: Full draft of paper due to State and Local Government Review.
  • September 1, 2016: Review and feedback to authors on full paper.
  • October 1, 2016: Final paper submitted to State and Local Government Review. Final manuscripts should be no longer than 18 pages of text with standard margins and font size.

*Please note that these are basic guidelines, each paper may require a different number of revisions or timing to make the October 1, 2016 deadline

Feel free to email or call me if you have any questions regarding your proposal or manuscript.


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