Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 407–433 | Cite as

Loss of control: legislature changes and the state–local relationship

Original Paper


There are a variety of methods that state legislatures can use to pass legislation which relates to municipalities. This paper explores why, how and when states changed their constitutions from allowing special legislation for municipalities to requiring general laws which would apply to all municipalities. Historians have put forward several explanations for why special legislation was harder to maintain as the nineteenth century progressed. A new way of framing the story is presented here by considering how the passage of special legislation was maintained through a logroll; legislators formed a coalition to vote on each other’s local legislation. As the size of the legislature expanded and the composition of the legislature changed, it may have been harder for legislators to maintain a coalition in order to logroll each other’s proposed local legislation. The previous theories along with the new one presented here are empirically tested. Evidence suggests a link between the size of the state legislature and the probability of instituting general legislation for municipalities, indicating that one motivation for adopting general laws was the dissolution of a stable logroll.


Logroll Special legislation General legislation Constitutional change Apportionment 

JEL Classification

D72 H7 N4 



I would like to thank John Wallis, Jenny Bourne and Jac Heckelman for many helpful comments on earlier versions. Many thanks to the participants of the 2013 AALAC Mellon 23 Workshop in Economic History, participants in the Wake Forest seminar series, and colleagues at the CSWEP Regional Mentoring workshop in Public Economics, for insightful comments and suggestions.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsFurman UniversityGreenvilleUSA

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