Panel Paper: Bridging Policy Adoption and Policy Implementation – an Exploration of Local Governments’ Sustainability Actions

Friday, November 9, 2018
Taylor - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Lu Liao1, George Homsy2 and Mildred E. Warner1, (1)Cornell University, (2)Binghamton University

Scholars of policy process have long argued the distinctions between policy adoption and policy implementation. Although much has been discussed about the interests and information involved in these two stages, there is little discussion on the connections and rationale that bridge the two. Previous scholarship gives insufficient attention to how the specific characteristics of the policy add more complexity to this policy process. To address these gaps, we take four issues – waste management, water conservation, energy conservation within governments, and energy conservation at the community level, and group these four issues according to their levels of complexity and innovation. We empirically explore factors that influence adoption and implementation of these four policies. Our data come from a national survey we conducted with the International City/County Management Association of all municipalities and counties in the United States in 2015. The survey measured the adoption of sustainability actions in water, energy and waste, as well as the performance of these actions evaluated by respondents. 1899 counties and municipalities responded.

We conducted logistic regression model controlling for the state fixed effects to examine our research questions. Our preliminary results show that 1) factors that influence sustainability policy adoption are more related to agency characteristics such as agency goals, sustainability staffing and local government fiscal capacity, while the implementation of the policy is more of a political process that involves voices of different stakeholders - pressure from residents, pressure from advocacy groups and pressure from business. 2) While the adoption of more complex issues is driven by the capacity of the agent itself, the adoption of easier policy actions is more likely to be influenced by local voices. 3) Local governments with goals on sustainability are more likely to take actions in areas that require more innovation, while performance measures influence policy adoption in more traditional areas. Our study bridges the gap between policy adoption and policy implementation and enhances scholarly understanding by providing further empirical information on the patterns of policy process as it relates to local sustainability policy.