Leckrone, J. Wesley and Gollob, Justin. Telegrams to Washington: Using Memorials to Congress as a Measure of State Attention tothe Federal Policy Agenda. State & Local Government Review, Vol. 42, No. 3 (December 2010), pp. 235-245
This article argues that state legislative memorials to Congress are an underutilized tool in the study of federalism. A data set composed of the 4, 1 19 memorials submitted to Congress from 1987 to 2006 was constructed to study the evolution of state priorities in intergovernmental policy and to examine attitudes toward state-federal relations. Analysis shows that memorials have been used by every state legislature to send substantive policy signals to Washington across a wide range of issues. The article concludes that the inclusion of memorials into the study of intergovernmental relations provides researchers rich insight into unexplored issues critical to our understanding of federalism.
“The use of memorials in the United States predates the founding of the Republic (Allen 1972; Munroe 1952, 178; and Riker 1955, 456). Congress rejected the inclusion of a “right to instruct” in the First Amendment. However, early American history was wrought with controversy over whether memorials were binding instructions from state legislatures to their delegations (Haynes 1938, 1026 and Riker 1955, 456)” (236).
“Most conflict between state legislatures and their senators over the binding effect of instructions occurred prior to the Civil War (Dodd 1902; Eaton 1952; Haynes 1938, 1025-34; Hoffmann 1956; and Riker 1955, 458-63) although states continued attempts at instruction into the early twentieth century (Haynes 1938, 1029-30). The passage of the seventeenth Amendment in 1913 resulted in memorials becoming mere “requests” for the Senate as well as the House. This ended the controversy over the right to instruct but did not cause states to discontinue the use of memorials which they continue to send to Congress into the twenty-first century.
“Memorials have been overlooked by political scientists despite their potential to illuminate the political development of American intergovernmental relations. A few isolated case studies that rely on memorials exist, such as Martin’s analysis of resolutions calling for a constitutional convention (1970), Nice’s exploration of state support for a federal balanced budget amendment (1986), and Regan and Deering’s examination of state opposition to REAL ID (2009). While APSR published two articles describing the variety of memorials introduced in 1919 and 1923 (Conover 1920 and Robinson 1924), there have been no further attempts at systematic analysis” (236).