Ryan Cotton

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Hoffmann

Second Advisor

Dr. J. Kevin Corder

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Peters

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only


How and why do states pass impact fee enabling legislation? Twenty-seven states adopted impact fee enabling legislation since 1987; 23 states are holdouts. What accounts for passage or failure to pass? Political, economic, institutional and demographic factors are identified in the literature as influences on state environmental policymaking. Hypotheses are developed that reflect Sabatier’s advocacy coalition framework and Berry’s policy diffusion explanations. Primary data gathering devices include a survey of legislators in selected states that considered impact fee enabling legislation, telephone interviews of political elites in those states, and related demographic data on population growth and land use.

I find that the likelihood of a state impact fee policy adoption is affected by the demographic factors of high population growth rates and loss of farmland plus the political factors of gubernatorial and interest group political activity and the institutional factors of constitutional provisions like home rule and tax limitations. Time is needed to build collaborative approaches with economic interests. Development of an environmental culture is important to overcome barriers. Influences like nearby state innovations, blue-ribbon studies and ballot initiative threats expedite agenda setting.

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