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The book compares and contrasts Congress and the state legislatures on histories, fundamental structures, institutional and organizational characteristics, and members. By highlighting the vast array of organizational schemes and behavioral patterns evidenced in state legislatures, the authors demonstrate that the potential for the study of American legislatures, as opposed to the separate efforts of Congressional and state legislative scholars, is too great to leave unexplored.
The institutional development of American legislatures, beginning with the first colonial assembly of 1619, has been marked by continuity as well as change. Peverill Squire draws upon a wealth of primary sources to document this institutional history. Beginning with the ways in which colonial assemblies followed the precedents of British institutions, Squire traces the fundamental ways they evolved to become distinct. He next charts the formation of the first state legislatures and the Constitutional Congress, describes the creation of territorial and new state legislatures, and examines the institutionalization of state legislatures in the nineteenth century and their professionalization since 1900. With his conclusion, Squire discusses the historical trajectory of American legislatures and suggests how they might further develop over the coming decades. While Squire's approach will appeal to historians, his focus on the evolution of rules, procedures, and standing committee systems, as well as member salaries, legislative sessions, staff, and facilities, will be valuable to political scientists and legislative scholars.