A Read-The-Bill Rule

…for the people who, you know, actually vote on these legislative atrocities. From Hanah Volokh (who I assume is related somehow to Eugene and Sasha — sister?). I wonder if the new Congress were to pass such a thing, if the president would veto it? Or perhaps it’s not legislation, just a change to House or Senate rules, in which case, he wouldn’t be involved. Hard to know from just the abstract.

15 thoughts on “A Read-The-Bill Rule”

  1. I’d be happy with a “Name the Bill Rule.” They passed a bill with the name “_______ of _______ #____” this year. (Paraphrased, I have no idea how many underscores there were. But the title was left blank.)

  2. Downsize DC has been pushing just such a bill for many years now, though not with a lot of success.

    It would help, of course, though probably not as much as one would hope. I watched a legislative session in Colorado one day and they had a clerk read just the title of the bills they were voting on, the titles being quite extensive. The clerk sounded like an auctioneer, reading in ten seconds what would take you and me a minute, while bored legislators spent the time conversing.

    I expect any Read the Bills law would get the same sort of end-run. However, it might, at least, cause the writers to trim the length of the bills a little.

  3. You’d have to supplement it with pop quizzes on the bill’s content.

    Senator! I know you’re just headed to the men’s room, but can you tell me what subparagraph 6 of section 156.4 of your recently introduced American All-Purpose Pie In The Sky Act of 2011 says? No? Oh dear, I’m afraid we have to take away one of your office chairs plus you have to pay for your own parking this month. See you next week! Study up!

  4. One way to keep meetings short is to take away the chairs. Sounds like we need to do that in Congress. Take away their pensions to discourage career politicians while we’re at it. Limit the Congress to one session no more than 100 days long, take away their perks and priviledges, and cut their salary.

    In short, make it less desireable to be there in the first place and less lucrative.

  5. Trent got my line, I remember that too.

    But how can they POSSIBLY be expected to read the long, weasel worded laws out loud, if their real task is to take power? If we knew ahead of time what was in these laws, we might do something rash like lynch the lot of them to keep ourselves safe from the power mad jackasses.

    Following the D.C group think, what are the lives of 600 to 700 or so, elected officials and their senior staff lackeys, against saving the lives of 300+ millions?l The only way to get rid of snakes is to kill them.

  6. This was an excellent article. It looks like Hanah Volokh has taken the torch from Thomas Sowell.
    It’s encouraging to see a scholar take an idea that another era would have considered to be intuitively obvious (or just plain common sense), and then defending it from first principles against every artifice of postmodern dismissal.

  7. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume early in the next session, some Representative introduces “The Telecommunications Improvement Act of 2011.” It’s ten pages long. The second paragraph is “(a) The Telephone and Telegraph Regulation Act of 1935 is hereby rescinded.”

    The 1935 Act is two hundred pages long.

    Should a well intentioned Congresscritter settle for reading (and thinking deeply about) provisions of the 10 page Telecommunication Act , or should he read (and ponder) the 1935 Act, which will be severely affected by the proposed legislation?

  8. As a matter of principle, Mike, I think it fully out of the scope of the job description of a Congressthing to ponder how we’ll all get along in the absence of his kindly intentions to tell us what to do and not do.

    I have this weird faith that we’ll muddle along ourselves, thanks just the same, based on my oddly arrogant faith that I know how to direct my life far better than any random lawyer polishing a char in Washington.

  9. Actually, we need a Paygo Principle when it comes to Federal law. Namely, the total word count of all Federal law is forbidden — let us say by Constitutional Amendment — from increasing. Hence if Congress wants to write new law, they must first repeal or simplify enough existing law so that the total word count will remain unchanged.

    And if we really want to encourage healthy competition between the political parties, like we have in the private sector, where firms compete for efficiency in providing a product or service, we can modify this slightly, like so:

    (1) Each political party has their own “word credit” which they accumulate by repealing or simplifying law when they are in the majority. Credit does not pass between parties, so, e.g. if the Republicans when they take over in November repeal 50,000 words of law and then get replaced in 2012, the Democrats do not get to take advantage of the Republiicans’ 50,000 word credit. They have to earn their own.

    (2) However, any credit remaining at the time you lose power carries over to the next time you gain power. So if the Republicans accumulated credit before being replaced in 2012, they could, when they return to power, immediatley start using that credit.

    What I like about (2) is that it instantly reverses the motivations during a lame-duck session, or when you know you’re about to go down in flames. Rather than pass a bunch of law at the last-minute, flouting popular opinion, because you’ve got nothing to lose, you’d be motivated to repeal a bunch of law at the last minute, so as to guarantee yourself a credit when you return to power.

    Naturally the other side isn’t going to help you, so you’re going to need to focus on repealing the least popular and msot useless aspects of the law favored by your own party — which is very likely to align you better with the public’s wishes. You’ll tend to leave untouched the more popular stuff, and tbe bipartisan stuff, because you know this is most resistant to being repealed by the other side when they take over — and that helps you minimize how much credit they can accumulate right away.

  10. Carl has inspired me to go into business selling verbal offsets to people who talk too much. They might scoff at first, but I have this little red button…

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