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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Legislative Intent


A perennial issue in the debate over legislative interpretation concerns what authority, if any, to accord to the preferred intent of the legislature. A fundamental precept of most normative theories of statutory interpretation is that the essential enterprise of the interpreter, be it a judge, an administrative agency, or any citizen potentially subject to the legislation, is to discern what the legislature intended with its enactment of a particular statutory provision. there is substantial disagreement concerning the appropriate methods of discerning legislative intent, supposing that such intent is relevant to legislative interpretation. The economic analysis of law has made important contributions to these spirited debates. In particular, the contributions of public choice theory and positive political theory continue to bring important insights to the literature on legislative interpretation and, also, on the relationship among legislatures, courts, executive officials, and regulatory agencies.

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