Center for Effective Lawmaking

CEL Receives Grant From the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

CEL Receives Grant From the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation recently committed a three-year $1.5 million grant to the Center for Effective Lawmaking (CEL) for our State Legislative Effectiveness Initiative.

Since its founding in 2017 as a joint venture between the University of Virginia (UVA)’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and Vanderbilt University, the CEL has studied and promoted lawmaking effectiveness in the United States. The overwhelming majority of our research and engagement activities to date have been focused on the U.S. Congress.

Over the past few years, the CEL has expanded its focus to analyze lawmaking effectiveness in American state legislatures. To that end, we have worked to generate “State Legislative Effectiveness Scores” for every state legislator serving in the United States over recent decades. The research article where we introduce these data is forthcoming at the flagship journal American Political Science Review (see Batten’s blog about the project here). We are now starting to undertake a wide collection of research and engagement projects on effective lawmaking in state legislatures, in a manner that is analogous to our work with the U.S. Congress.

The support from the Blank Family Foundation will allow us to substantially expand these efforts, including:

  • continually updating State Legislative Effectiveness Scores (SLES) at the conclusion of each legislative term, starting in 2025;
  • making the SLES broadly accessible on websites analogous to our congressional interface;
  • building a research community around the use of these scores and around effective lawmaking in the states more generally;
  • offering more research opportunities for UVA and Vanderbilt undergraduate and graduate students;
  • hiring additional staff and post-doctoral scholars to support this initiative;
  • building connections to media in the states to focus on effective lawmaking;
  • generating a New Member Guide for all newly elected state legislators; and
  • conducting pilot programming for existing lawmakers in various states (starting with Georgia and Montana, where the Blank Family Foundation focuses the bulk of its work) to promote their lawmaking effectiveness.

“The results of the scorecards will benefit the public who deserve to know how well their elected officials collaborate and legislate,” says Wendy Feliz, managing director of Democracy at the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. See more about the grant here.

“The grant from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation allows us to significantly expand the reach of the Center at the state legislative level. With states holding the promise of being American laboratories of democracy, we are thankful to now be well-positioned to study and promote their effectiveness,” says Craig Volden, co-director of the CEL. CEL co-director Alan Wiseman noted that “This grant is absolutely transformative for the Center, allowing us to engage with state legislators and legislative policymaking in a way that would have simply been impossible for us to undertake without this funding.”

The CEL is excited and proud to have received this grant and to be able to utilize it for the next chapter in its work to advance the generation, communication, and use of new knowledge about the effectiveness of individual lawmakers and legislative institutions.

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