Oregon State Legislators' Use of Oregon Benchmark Data in Legislative Decision-Making
Misaras, Laura Rose
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Misaras, Laura Rose
Coinciding with the development and release of a new online reporting system for the Oregon Benchmarks, this study was initiated to gain insight into Oregon state legislators’ use of Oregon Benchmark data in legislative decision-making. Specific aspects of legislative decision-making (e.g. information seeking, selection and management, along with decision-making styles and preferences) were also explored to help the Oregon Progress Board shape improved decisionsupport strategies for Oregon state legislators. This was a cross-sectional qualitative study employing semi-structured interviews conducted in the first quarter of 2007 with a purposively-selected sample including three current and seven former Oregon state legislators, including two former governors. Potential interviewees were selected based on committee membership(s), availability and diversity of demographic and other characteristics (e.g. gender, party, number of sessions served, Progress Board membership, etc.) The findings confirmed prior research studies suggesting legislators seek information from a variety of sources, with fellow legislative colleagues (in part due to committee structure of legislative process favoring increased specialization) and trusted lobbyists (deemed to have time for research and a strong incentive to guard their reputation (if they present faulty information even once, they lose all credibility)) high on the list. Legislators’ expressed information needs tend to be specific (e.g. defensible information tied to particular bills near the time of decision with a preference for relevant political information (e.g. supporters/advocates, projected impacts (district, societal, fiscal), suggested action)). All of the interviewees acknowledged their exposure to at least some of the materials (e.g. committee briefs, biennial reports, web site) produced by the Oregon Progress Board. Reported use of the Oregon Benchmark data in legislative decision-making was mixed, varying by committee. Legislators recognized important uses for Oregon Benchmark data in legislative decision-making, yet several felt the information was underutilized due to a lack of familiarity, training, and/or timing. Delivering Oregon Benchmark data to legislators at alternative times, such as the campaign season and the interim between legislative sessions, may increase legislators’ opportunities to assimilate and respond strategically to the benchmarks, collectively and individually. Additional themes and recommendations were identified.