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December 29, 2010

The Downsize DC Agenda: Part 2 of our memo to our Congressional sponsors

Yesterday we pointed out that the incoming House majority just created a rule requiring a 3-day waiting period. They did this in response to our ideas and your pressure. That’s why they call their rule “read the bill.” Notice that it’s the singular form of the word — bill, not billS. That’s because . . .

Downsize DC started the drive for reform in this direction, so we own the plural form of the name, Read the BillS. 

We don’t expect this new 3-day rule to live up to even the modest claim of causing even one bill to be read. Instead, it will show the world just how badly we need Downsize DC’s version of the idea, the Read the Bills Act.

Yesterday we also shared Part 1 (http://bit.ly/eC5waJ) of the memo we’ve written to the 2 House members and 1 Senator who have promised to introduce our legislation — the Read the Bills Act, the One Subject at a Time Act, and the Write the Laws Act. Today’s installment, Part 2, will show the clear supriority of a Read the Bills LAW over the read the bill rule . . .

The Read the Bills Act of 2011 (RTBA)

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for citizens. Neither should it be permitted to Congress.

With great power comes great responsibility. Representatives have a fiduciary responsibility to read every word of every law that they seek to impose on the people they claim to serve. The obligations imposed on public servants must always be greater than those imposed on citizens.

Your support for RTBA marks you as a representative worthy of the name.

RTBA requires that . . .

Any member of Congress wishing to cast an affirmative vote for more spending, greater regulation, or the creation or retention of a program or bureaucracy, must sign an affidavit swearing that he or she has either . . .

* Read the entire bill, or . . .
* Heard the entire bill read.

It will always be easy for every member of Congress to hear a full reading of a bill because RTBA requires such a reading before a quorum of each chamber of Congress. This requirement is by far the most important reform feature contained in any of these bills (RTBA, OSTA, WTLA), for reasons that will become clear.

The quorum reading requirement means that . . .

All floor business will halt while a Constitutional quorum is present for a full, literal, word-for-word, in-order, reading of the entire bill.

This one simple requirement will . . .

* Change how Congress operates
* Make your job easier
* Restore public confidence in the legislative branch.

As it stands now . . .

* Too many bills are passed too quickly with too little understanding, debate, and deliberation
* Too many of these bills are too long, too dense, and contain too many subjects

The quorum reading requirement will fix these problems. It will make Congress . . .

* Slow down
* Debate
* Deliberate
* And better understand the burdens they seek to impose on the American people.

Most importantly, it will give Congress a huge incentive to make bills shorter, clearer, and more focused, so that the members of Congress can better endure the fatigue of hearing them read!

No mere rule, or three day waiting period (which the House has already passed) can accomplish any of these things. And far from imposing a burden on Congress, the quorum reading requirement will make things easier for every member of Congress  . . .

Legislation will be shorter, simpler, and more clear.

In addition . . .

RTBA requires that each part of a bill that amends present law must quote the existing law to be amended, and the new section as amended.

It will no longer suffice to have something like the following . . .

“Section 415 (21 U.S.C. 350d) is amended in subsection (a)(2), by inserting after the first sentence the following: …”

This is yet another feature of RTBA that will make things easier for both Congress and the public.

RTBA also imposes waiting periods . . .

* After the quorum reading Congress must wait seven (7) days before the final vote.
* The bill must also be posted online during that period so that the press, the public, and watchdog groups can read the legislation too.
* The vote must be publicly scheduled on the Internet for a date certain, seven (7) days in advance.

Amendments after the Final Reading will restart the clock for the waiting period and the seven day advance public scheduling of the vote. The reading and public posting requirements will also apply to amendments. Thus . . .

* If the Senate amends a House proposal, then upon its return to the House, the House the quorum reading will ONLY apply to the changes.
* Yet the changes will still need to be posted on the Internet for seven (7) days before the final vote can be held, and . . . 
* That vote will need to be publicly scheduled for seven (7) days in advance.

These provisions will end the practice of legislating by surprise, and give citizens the same time for reading and deliberating that Congress has.

In conclusion . . .

If the citizens you serve must be responsible for obeying and paying for every word of every law you enact, then every member of Congress must be responsible for reading every word of every bill before they vote to pass it.

End of Part 2. If you missed Part 1, about how are laws will be enforced, you can find it on our blog, here: http://bit.ly/eC5waJ. Tune-in tomorrow for Part 3 to see how we explain the details of the One Subject at a Time Act to our Congressional sponsors.

There are only 3 days remaining in 2010. Please consider making a year-end contribution, are starting a monthly pledge to support our work in 2011.

Jim Babka
President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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