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December 30, 2010

The Downsize DC Agenda: Part 3 of our memo to our Congressional sponsors

We’ve been sharing a memo we’ve written to the members of Congress who will be sponosring our Downsize DC Agenda bills.

* Part 1 contained an introduction and explanation of how our bills would be enforced
* Part 2 explained the Read the Bills Act

Here’s Part 3, dealing with the One Subject at a Time Act . . .

The One Subject at a Time Act of 2011 (OSTA)

Under OSTA each bill will be limited to one subject. The only exceptions will be . . .

* Concurrent Resolutions that are not binding laws signed by the President
* Appropriations bills within the jurisdictional authority of each Appropriations Subcommittee

In addition to having only one subject . . .

* Each bill must have a clear, descriptive title (The Read the Bills Act and the One Subject at a Time Act are perfect examples).
* No general legislation or change to existing law can be included in an appropriations bill unless it’s germane to an appropriation made in that bill. For instance, an appropriations bill could prohibit the bureaucracy from spending an appropriation unless a stipulated requirement was met.
* Each bill that amends an existing statute must include the full text of the section of the current law to be changed, as well as the full text as it would read if the proposed amendment were adopted.

This simple bill will prevent underhanded, anti-democratic behavior.

We were taught in school that majority support is required to pass legislation, but Congressional leaders constantly avoid this requirement by loading down popular bills that are sure to pass with unpopular measures that would fail on their own merits. Here are some real examples:

* A port security bill became the vehicle for the prohibition of online poker in 2006, thereby serving the special interests of brick and mortar gambling concerns.
* A consolidated appropriations bill became a haven for a gun control bill in 1997.
* Must-pass troop appropriations bills have been used to enact legislation for tsunami relief, a national ID card (2005), and an increase to the minimum wage (2007).

OSTA would have prevented all of the above abuses. OSTA would also reduce log-rolling — an ancient Congressional practice that is nothing more than tax funded bribery. OSTA will also enhance some of the benefits created by RTBA . . .

Single subject bills are inherently simpler, more focused, and easier to understand, not only for legislators, but also for the courts, the bureaucracy, and the public.

Legislative intent will also become more clear. Right now, Congress can pass a bill that taxes one group of Americans so as to spy on another, and call it . . .

“The Happy, Awesome Freedom for Children of Patriots without Healthcare Act of 2011.”

Such titles are pure propaganda — manipulation rather than description. The examples of this are legion, and anyone who has spent a term in Congress could easily compile their own list. OSTA would arrest this practice in favor of honesty and clarity.  

OSTA would also act as a kind of legislative line-item veto. The Presidential line-item veto promised to cut silly spending, but OSTA will actually do so, but in a more democratic, rather than autocratic fashion. The reason for this is simple — spending proposals that can’t pass on their own merits, won’t. And spending that never gets passed never has to be vetoed.

In conclusion . . .

Forty two states have One Subject rules in their Constitutions. Why doesn’t the U.S. Congress exercise the same level of responsibility? You’re about to help correct this deficiency by introducing OSTA in Congress.

End of Part 3. Tune-in tomorrow for Part 4 to see how we explain the details of the Write the Laws Act to our Congressional sponsors.

There are only 2 days remaining in 2010. Please consider making a year-end contribution or starting a monthly pledge to support our work in 2011.

Jim Babka
President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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