Patterns of Law-making in Germany's Multilevel System

Research question/goal: 

The project analysed the patterns of law-making in the 16 German state parliaments between 1990 and 2019. Law-making is a central task of the democratic process, during which we may observe the positions and issue priorities of political parties and the conflict structure and inclusiveness of decision-making. Moreover, law-making processes offer insights into the performance of democratic systems. While the patterns of law-making have already been investigated in various studies at the federal level, our project provides the first systematic account at the level of the German states.

We collected data on more than 17,300 individual bills in all state parliaments, including information on the initiator, the policy area, dates and duration of different stages (e.g. 1st reading, final vote), and the final decision taken. To this end, computer scripts were developed to download data on legislation and extract systematic information. Moreover, the voting behaviour of all parties during the 2nd and 3rd reading were extracted manually from the plenary protocols. Finally, we connected data on the implementation of European law with the respective bills in our dataset.

Our results highlight that the new dualism, i.e. the antagonism between the government, its supporting party groups and the opposition, heavily structures law-making processes in the German states. Bills are primarily introduced by the government, which enjoys a monopoly over passed bills. Moreover, we have shown that the heterogeneity of government coalitions does not influence the timing and sequence of bills, as has been shown for the federal level. Finally, a content analysis of bills has revealed typical patterns of issue competition (e.g. the Greens introduce more environmental bills than other parties). With regard to the performance of the German states in implementing European law, we found a substantial variance that is mainly due to differences in administrative capacities.

Fact sheet

2015 to 2020
Data Sources: 
data on individual bills
Geographic Space: 
Germany and Europe