Executive Orders and Administrative Control


Margaret R. Ferguson is an associate professor and chair of the Political Science Department at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Her research focuses on governors and executive power, as well as on governors’ relationships with public administrators and state legislators.
E-mail: mferguso@iupui.edu

Cynthia J. Bowling is an associate professor of political science at Auburn University. Her research focuses on public administrators, bureaucracy, and policy within the broader state and local government context. She is currently serving as codirector, with Deil S. Wright, of the 2008 American State Administrators Project.
E-mail: bowlicj@auburn.edu


One of the key recommendations of the Winter Commission was the empowerment of governors over the executive branch. However, key institutions have not evolved in this direction; the long ballot still exists in most states, and the formal powers of governors have strengthened to their probable capacity. The authors suggest that a quasi-formal power—the gubernatorial use of executive orders—may be a significant tool for empowering the governor in the state administrative realm. Analyzing all executive orders in 49 states for 2004 and 2005, they find variation in the aggregate use of and functions performed through these orders. Many executive orders do allow the government more direction and control of state bureaucracy. Finally, the authors suggest that the study of executive orders may be necessary to understand gubernatorial power in the executive arena and beyond.