A delegation of Halsten Enterprise led by Osee R. Lieberman was engaged in the Arizona State Legislature by a field visit at the Arizona House of Representative on April 16. This field trip was organized by Chuck Fitzgerald , Sergeant at Arms at the AZ House of Representatives. The purpose of the visit was to provide our team the understanding of public participation of students and or private citizens. What was the take-away? We agreed that in addition to decision-making, scholars identify two other key functions of legislatures: linkage and legitimization. (Copeland and Patterson 1994).
The principle of more-public-involvement-better-results could equally apply to the linkage and legitimization functions of legislatures in a democracy. The linkage between citizens and their government is obviously strengthened when the public has ample opportunity to have their concerns heard by the legislature. Even in countries with weak legislatures subservient to a strong executive, parliaments may play an important role by voicing the concerns of diverse elements of the population.
We adhere to the idea that this role of linking citizens and their government is closely related to the complicated concept of legitimacy. Citizens who regard their government as legitimate are more likely to obey laws, support the regime and accommodate diverse points of view. Citizen participation in the legislative process is vital to creating this sense of legitimacy.
In conclusion, the primary purpose of this visit was to discuss ways that legislatures can increase public participation in the parliamentary process, and to understand the dynamics and interrelationships of public knowledge and support of legislatures. One of several reasons why this is important to democracy is to promote the legitimacy of democratic representation of all voices. This legitimacy is in turn dependent on public knowledge and support of the legislature.
By Karl T. Kurtz
Director, Trust for Representative Democracy, NCSL