Waiting Period for Laws

In his New York Post column, Glenn Harlan Reynolds suggests a waiting period for 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?

I’d like to propose a “waiting period” for legislation. No bill should be voted on without hearings, debate and a final text that’s available online for at least a week. (A month would be better. How many bills really couldn’t wait a month?)

And if the bill is advertised as addressing a “tragedy” or named after a dead child, this period should double.

After all, people want waiting periods for guns. Yet, statistically, the percentage of guns involved in crimes is much lower than the percentage of politicians involved in crimes.

Seriously, legislation is supposed to be a deliberative process. When they don’t want to deliberate, it’s because they’re hiding something. And they’re hiding it because they don’t want you to know about it.

The founding fathers did not intend for laws to be passed easily or quickly, for them gridlock was a good thing. There are a couple of other reforms I would suggest. One might be that if the Supreme Court rules that a law is unconstitutional, than every legislator who voted for it be subject to a heavy fine. Repeat offenders would be forced to resign and barred from public office for life. No bill named after a dead child should be permitted and all such laws currently on the books should be automatically repealed. I would also suggest that no bill under consideration be permitted to have irrelevant riders attached to it. A rider is an additional provision attached to a bill that it has no obvious or relevant connection to the main subject of the bill. A rider is often used to enact policies that could never pass on their own. Other democratic countries manage to limit or prohibit the practice of adding riders to bills, as did the Confederate constitution. I don’t see why we should not do likewise. Maybe there should also be a mandatory sunset provision for all laws passed. Term limits for everyone in office couldn’t hurt.

 

 

 

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