Passing the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program Bill: A Case Study Applying Theories of Policy Change

By Knox, Claire Connolly | Public Administration Quarterly, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Passing the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program Bill: A Case Study Applying Theories of Policy Change


Knox, Claire Connolly, Public Administration Quarterly


INTRODUCTION

With more than 60 years of theoretical development, policy scholars have been apprehensive about how to develop a cohesive body of knowledge about policy origins and effects. The subfield of public policy is complex and requires more than one framework to capture the entire process. Study of the policy process has evolved from the stages heuristic to multiple theoretical frameworks. The stages heuristic, a simplistic and linear model of the policy-making process, does not account for the complexity, ambiguity, or instability inherent in policy development (Jann & Wegrich, 2007). Policy frameworks, such as advocacy coalition framework (ACF) (Sabatier & JenkinsSmith, 1988), punctuated equilibrium framework (PEF) (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993), and multiple streams framework (MSF) (Kingdon, 1995), are adaptations of the stages heuristic moving toward an empiricist and positivist methodological approach. This article analyzes the passage of the 2007 Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program Bill (hereinafter Senate Bill 392) from two different theoretical perspectives: the ACF and the social construction framework (SCF) (Schneider & Ingram, 1997; Yanow, 1992).

Senate Bill 392 was selected as an example of a policy change because this bill presents a change in the language and scope of Everglades policy. Throughout Everglades policy history, the geographic boundary and political scope of the Everglades rested below Lake Okeechobee. Many sources reference the "northern Everglades" as the area commonly known as the Everglades Agricultural Area, which lies southeast of Lake Okeechobee (i.e., Hinrichsen, 1995; Levin, 2003; Light & Dineen, 1994; National Research Council, 2008; Newman et al., 1998; Salt, Langton, & Doyle, 2008). Since 2000, none of the bills concerning the restoration and cleanup of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River used the word "Everglades" in their title; this changed in the 2007 Florida legislative session with Senate Bill 392.

The Florida Everglades is a significant policy, planning, and management issue and contains approximately 25% of the original four million acres. It is a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Ramsar wetland of international importance (Caffey & Schexnayder, 2003). Researchers have studied this ecosystem and its rich 170-year policy history from various disciplines including economics (Richardson, et al., 2014; Weisskoff, 2005), management (Estenoz & Bush, 2015; Koch, et al., 2015; Light & Dineen, 1994), policy (Gonzalez, 2005; Knox, 2013), and public administration (Gerlak & Heikkila, 2011; Heikkila & Gerlak, 2014).

Researchers have successfully applied the ACF to qualitative and quantitative case studies since the mid-1990s. Environmental policy is primarily (57%) studied, including watershed partnerships (Leach & Sabatier, 2005); coastal water policy (Jordan & Greenway, 1998); forest policy (Burnett & Davis, 2002; Elliott & Schlaepfera, 2001); water policy (Ellison, 1998; Leschine, Lind, & Sharma, 2003); and Everglades policy, namely the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (Taylor, 2007) (Jenkins-Smith, Nohrstedt, Weible, & Sabatier, 2014). Meanwhile, researchers have used the SCF to study organic agriculture (Ingram & Ingram, 2006); water policy in Israel (Menahem, 1998); and toxic releases (Yu et al., 1998).

Since each framework implies a distinctive process of interaction among prominent actors, an exploratory qualitative approach for a richly detailed case is particularly well suited to uncover significant mechanisms of social interaction. The addition of the SCF uncovered a more radical change missed by the ACF in analyzing the passage of Senate Bill 392. Specifically, the minor policy change could have major implications in the geographic boundary and political scope of future Everglades and water policies in Florida. Applying the SCF explains the potential, unintended, negative consequences of including "Everglades" in the bill's title - namely the advantaged groups' previous actions to weaken other Everglades legislations could affect the implementation and outcomes of Senate Bill 392. …

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