Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Michael P. Johnson

Second Advisor

Michael Ahn

Third Advisor

Maureen Flynn


Why do state legislators make the decisions that they do? What motivates individual legislators to participate in the bill-making process and at what point along the bill-making continuum is the most influence exerted? This dissertation addresses these questions through the prism of Public Choice Theory which posits that the self-interest of individual legislators is the primary or dominant motivator for legislative action.

This dissertation is comprised of a case study addressing the development and passage of three bills enacted by the Massachusetts legislature during the recent housing foreclosure crisis. Detailed primary and secondary data collection, coupled with a novel conceptual framework, provides a unique perspective on the bill-making process. I identify multiple legislator motivations associated with the bill-making process, and measure the strength of support for these motivations through interviews with current and retired Massachusetts legislators. These interview results are supported by additional conversations with other key informants and extensive review and collation of archival and administrative data.

The dissertation contains three analyses of qualitative data: assessment of all interview results according to definitions of legislator characteristics and motivations, analysis of interviews according to classifications of legislators according to leadership style and current employment status, and creation of novel descriptive categories of legislators that extend the dissertation's theoretical framework. I conclude that while self-interest does motivate legislators' actions, it is neither primary nor dominant, and that this finding is consistent with Massachusetts' unique political environment. As a result of the patterned presence of multiple motivators, I define new categories of legislator motivations that better reflect the vibrant, complex influences that are involved in bill-making and legislator decision-making.


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