We Need A Waiting Period

…for passing laws.

Can’t do that. Might make it too hard to pass stupid laws.

After every tragedy, legislation gets rushed through that’s typically just a bunch of stuff that various folks had long wanted all along, but couldn’t pass before. Then it’s hustled through as a “solution” to the tragedy, even though close inspection usually reveals that the changes wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy, and don’t even have much to do with it.

The goal, thus, is to prevent close inspection through a combination of heavy-handed legislative techniques and bullying rhetoric: If you don’t want to pass our bill without reading it, you must hate the children.

Over the years, we’ve gotten a lot of lousy legislation this way — the Patriot Act, for example, about which I wrote a column something like this one back in 2001. We’ve gotten it because politicians like to manipulate voters and avoid scrutiny.

But why let them?

Why indeed?

10 thoughts on “We Need A Waiting Period”

  1. “I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent — the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let the legislators pass laws only with a two-thirds majority… while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere one-third minority. Preposterous? Think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it?”

    – Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

  2. I’d settle for this:

    New laws may only be written by members of congress (at either the federal or state level). This will be verified through the use of a webcam + keylogger combination attached to the lawmaker’s computers (which may be deactivated when not needed). Any other material may be consulted in the writing of a law, and multiple lawmaker’s may work cooperatively but the final bills must only be the product of the typing or direct transcription of senator and/or representatives.

    Secondly, any lawmaker must read in its entirety every law they vote on. This will be verified through a simple multiple choice exam which will test comprehension of the material in the bill. Failure of this exam will nullify the lawmaker’s vote. Exam scores will be part of the public record.

    1. I see the problem being not so much the sourcing of legislation from outside, as the acceptance of such bill without proper validation. The sponsoring legislators should know the bill as well as if they did write it themselves.

      1. I think a lot of the problem Robin is pointing out is that the legislation is written largely by congressional staffers, not members of Congress. When you have bills that can run into the hundreds or even thousands of pages, all sorts of mischief can easily be hidden inside so that “you have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

        I’ve heard a couple proposals that I like, at least on a cursory level. The first is limiting all legislation to a single topic (no riders or mixing) and perhaps limiting the page count. The second is to put a hard page limit on federal laws and regulations. What to enact a new one? First, identify the old one you’re ready to repeal.

  3. Um, didn’t Mr. Obama have a campaign promise in 2008, of at least some short waiting-and-public-comment-period on all legislation, of maybe at least a week as part of a transparency-in-government initiative?

      1. I was asking my question rhetorically. I think the expiration came just a few weeks in to the first Presidential term in 2009 with the Stimulus.

  4. I took a survey once about political something-or-other and the last question they asked was what legislation would you propose. A 100-day waiting period between ‘shocking event’ and any legislative action was my suggestion. Could’ve been the germ for this. 😉

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