Before I continue my Five Simple Steps series, I need to include the following disclaimer: I’m writing this series to encourage debate. In doing so, I strongly encourage opposing views, but the dissenting party should put some skin in the game by placing their own ideas on the table. Don't just disagree. Join the discussion!
We need strong solutions to some very real problems, so people will have something tangible to rally around!
That said, we absolutely need more transparency and accountability in our legislative process. In my Five Simple Steps to End Graft and Corruption in Washington segment, I already mentioned a few ideas, but I would like to revisit and expand on them for this segment.
First, we should require all legislation to be based on a single-issue and constrained by the powers enumerated to the federal government by the constitution. Each piece of legislation should live or die based on its own merits. No unrelated amendments.
By employing single-issue legislation, the voting record of our representatives will be completely transparent. They won’t be able to claim they would have voted for a piece of legislation if some arbitrary amendment wasn’t attached.
Second, any debate concerning the bill, especially any filibuster attempts, should be strictly bill-related. No more stealing time from the American people by wasting the time and efforts of our legislators.
Third, each piece of legislation needs to be available online for public review (and comment) prior to any vote, and any bill-related debate needs to be available (on-demand) for public retrieval as part of their right to due diligence.
Fourth, each bill should be written in plain English (no legalese) by the representative submitting the bill. No special interest/lobbyist participation. And, each bill should be as brief as possible. Some people have suggested a page or two at the most, but that may not accommodate every bill. We need to be flexible enough to accommodate the full intent of the legislation while keeping it concise and easy to understand.
Fifth, if new legislation affects or amends previous legislation, the previous legislation either (1) needs to be repealed and replaced in its entirety, or (2) the new legislation needs to include the full text of the previous legislation.
Reading a new bill often results in a mental game of twister, as you are forced to read subsection after subsection of existing legislation (and apply the changes) to even begin to figure out what the new legislation proposes and how it changes the previous legislation. Far too confusing…
The (potential) forced reconciliation/consolidation of old legislation leads me to the bonus section…
This section will be wildly unpopular with proponents of small government. As a proponent of small government myself, I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t think it was critical to reign in an out of control bureaucracy. This bonus section compliments the steps necessary for overall government reforms I plan to address in another segment.
So, here we go…
We should appoint a 250-member super-legislature – five representatives from each state – to review every piece of legislation created since our nation’s founding. Since our nation is less than 250 years old, each member could be responsible to review the legislation for one year, with the extra (floaters) helping anyone with extraordinarily busy legislative cycles.
The goal of the super-legislature would be to recommend repeal, replacement, and/or consolidation of any out-of-date or unconstitutional legislation, so every piece of legislation can be converted to the single-issue, plain English format.
In an ideal world, that process would take place in one year, but some pieces of legislation would take a considerable amount of time for review. The length of the super-legislature commission could be debated (2yrs, 5yrs?), but it would help rid our nation of considerable bloat and waste in the long-run.
To keep from creating another out-of-control beast, the super-legislature would have a mandatory sunset provision, with built-in accountability parameters. If the commission does not produce results, it could be terminated prematurely. Those terms should be baked in…
Those are my ideas. What say you?