It’s a dirty little secret, but your representatives in Washington often don’t actually read the important legislation they vote on. After all, they’re busy fellows, they have so many parties to attend and speeches to make, who can expect them to read 400 pages on farm subsidies or 1200 pages of the Patriot Act. With amendments and modifications some of them don’t even get to read the entirety of the bills they’re sponsoring, much less those they’re just signing off on.
So when it’s time to vote on whether or not DEA agents can seize your house because someone threw a bag of pot in your yard, or whether it’s okay for Homeland Security to bug your cellphone without approval from a judge, the people making the decisions probably only read a summary of the legislation written by an aide who’s fresh out of college and doesn’t have anything better to do. Or far too often, they don’t even read a summary at all, and instead vote based on what a lobbyist, or a colleague or a party leader tells them to do.
A bad law can seriously screw up your life, so don’t you think the guy you put in office to look out for your interests ought to at least read the bill before it becomes a law so that he can make an informed decision on it?
Well, the brilliant guys at Downsize DC think so, and they’ve come up with a great idea – a short, simple bill which anyone can read in a couple of minutes which requires every member of Congress to read every piece of legislation they vote on before being allowed to place their vote.
The hope is that at the very least this will result in some of the excessive language being trimmed out of the bills, and hopefully maybe even result in some unnecessary legislation actually being noticed and stopped before it gets to the floor of the House and gets passed by representatives who are barely paying attention to what they’re voting on at all and just going through the motions. It might also mean fewer last minute amendments and sudden wording changes, and more attention to the actual content of the bills by everyone involved. A lot of legislation currently gets passed which might not if more legislators were actually familiar with all of the contents. This proposed bill could very easily result in clearer, simpler and fewer laws, and it’s hard to see how that could be anything but good.
We pay our representatives a lot of money and give them our trust and support. That obligates them to do a conscientious job and put our best interests first. If they aren’t reading the bills they pass they aren’t really doing the job we elected them to do, so let’s make them give every piece of legislation the attention which it deserves. We may not be able to make them think deep thoughts about every provision in every bill, but we can at least make them read everything and hope that they start to notice and maybe think twice about some of the garbage they’ve been rubber stamping over the years.
If this sounds like a good idea to you, stop by Downsize DC and do what you can to help. What they particularly need right now is people who will write to their representatives to get sponsors for the bill in the House and Senate. Getting Congress to consider a citizen-initiated bill is a longshot, but if they can get sponsors and get the bill onto the docket, there’s a good chance that no one will bother to read it before they vote and pass it into law.
All Contents of this article copyright 2005, Dave Nalle