Nov 202007

One of my hobby-horse reforms of the legislative process is to bring sunshine onto a practice that The Main Adversary describes in an entry titled, “Three weeks and a cloud of taxes.” He writes:

For the second weekend in a row the House of Delegates held key votes in the dark of night after most of the press had left and most us had gone to bed. Delegates were voting on versions of bills handed to them minutes before the vote, with no idea of what they were voting on.

I say it ought to be that any legislation that isn’t published in public view before a vote is held is null and void. In fact, not only should there be sufficient time for the public to view legislation before the public legislature votes on it, but any legislators ought to be required to stand up and read the entire text of a bill aloud before being allowed to vote in favor. Doing it via a youtube video would be fine.

Now you might say this is impractical, that in a complex society like ours we need complex legislation. But I say that one reason our society is more complex than it needs to be is because of legislation that makes it complex — for example, legislation that nobody reads before voting on it.

You might object, saying that simple, easy-to-read legislation would mean more power would be given to administrative bureaucrats to flesh it out. I say, yes, that is a danger, but I also have a reform in mind to deal with that one: Any member of a legislature who lobbies an administrative agency other than in a public hearing should go straight to jail. If a legislator stands up and brags that he is somehow responsible for an administrative agency spending money on one of his constituents’ favored programs, that should be sufficient evidence to convict.

Once you close off the avenues of legislators violating the separations of powers by meddling in administrative matters, then legislators will be jealously careful of the powers they grant to administrative bureaucracies.

There, that’s not just one, but two of my hobby-horse reforms.