Apr 012011
 

No legislation without representation!

The following text is borrowed from Downsize DC, and I agree with it. I’d like to add to it, though. Let’s make it a constitutional amendment! Downsize DC suggests an amendment as a response to a court challenge of the act. I say skip the BS and go straight for the good stuff. What do you think?

Help us pass the “Read the Bills Act” (RTBA)

Part 1: What RTBA does and why

Most Congressmen are lawyers, and many others are businessmen. They know what “fiduciary responsibility” is. For Members of Congress, fiduciary responsibility means reading each word of every bill before they vote.

But Congress has not met this duty for a long time. Instead . . .

  • They carelessly pass mammoth bills that none of them have read. Sometimes printed copies aren’t even available when they vote!
  • Often no one knows what these bills contain, or what they really do, or what they will really cost.
  • Additions and deletions are made at the last minute, in secrecy.
  • They combine unpopular proposals with popular measures that few in Congress want to oppose. (This practice is called “log-rolling.”)
  • And votes are held with little debate or public notice.
  • Oh, and once these bills are passed, and one of these unpopular proposals comes to light, they pretend to be shocked. “How did that get in there?” they say.

There’s a basic principle at stake here. America was founded on the slogan, “No taxation without representation.” A similar slogan applies to this situation:

“No LEGISLATION without representation.”

We hold this truth to be self-evident, that those in Congress who vote on legislation they have not read, have not represented their constituents. They have misrepresented them.

And since Congress has repeatedly committed “legislation without representation,” strong measures to prohibit these Congressional misrepresentations are both justified and required.

To this end we have created the “Read the Bills Act (RTBA).” RTBA requires that . . .

  • Each bill, and every amendment, must be read in its entirety before a quorum in both the House and Senate.
  • Every member of the House and Senate who plans to vote in the affirmative – to vote for tax increases, for spending bills, for the retention or creation of programs, in support of laws and regulations – must sign a sworn affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has attentively either personally read, or heard read, the complete bill to be voted on.
  • Every old law coming up for renewal under the sunset provisions must also be read according to the same rules that apply to new bills.
  • Every bill to be voted on must be published on the Internet at least 7 days before a vote, and Congress must give public notice of the date when a vote will be held on that bill.
  • Passage of a bill that does not abide by these provisions will render the measure null and void, and establish grounds for the law to be challenged in court.
  • Congress cannot waive these requirements.

The effects of these provisions will be profound . . .

  • Congress will have to slow down. This means the pace of government growth will also slow.
  • Bills will shrink, be less complicated, and contain fewer subjects, so that Congress will be able to endure hearing them read.
  • Fewer bad proposals will be passed due to “log-rolling.”
  • No more secret clauses will be inserted into bills at the last moment.
  • Government should shrink as old laws reach their sunset date, and have to be read for the first time before they can be renewed.

And all of these things will enable a larger DownsizeDC.org to more effectively lobby Congress for small government.

Part 2: Our Strategy for passing RTBA

Our plan for passing this legislation is simple, but powerful.

  • We have submitted a copy of RTBA to every member of Congress.
  • We are asking every member of the House and Senate to sponsor this legislation and work for its passage.
  • We are mounting a campaign to recruit thousands, and perhaps millions of Americans to lobby Congress to support RTBA.
  • We are promoting this campaign with a variety of tactics, from Internet networking, to media interviews, to whatever it takes.
  • We will run targeted radio ads, letting citizens know that their Congressman is failing to support this badly needed reform.

The need for this reform is so self-evident that nearly every person in America should support it, and few oppose it. We see no reason why we should not be able to overwhelm Congress with calls to pass this legislation.

  • We dare Congress not to pass it. The more they resist, the larger and stronger we will grow.
  • We dare anyone to challenge it in Court. The more the lobbyists attempt to defeat this reform, the larger and stronger we will grow.
  • We dare the Courts to declare it un-Constitutional. If they do, we will grow larger and stronger as a result — probably big enough to begin a campaign to amend the Constitution to forbid “LEGISLATION without representation.”

There is simply no reason that any normal, tax-paying American should oppose RTBA. And the more the “powers that be” resist these reforms, the larger and stronger we will grow.

We win either way. And thus, we believe, we will win in the end.

Part 3: A Call to Action

To send your message to Congress in support of RTBA click here.

Jul 142009
 

As I watch the Sotomayor confirmation hearings in a live CSPAN web feed,  a thought has occurred to me: not all litmus tests are bad.

Much ado is made with regard to ensuring that judges raised to the Supreme Court bench unbiased and impartial, and that they not be subjected to ideological litmus tests. I agree that justices should judge constitutionality without respect to persons, parties, or extra-constitutional ideologies. First, one must honestly and openly recognize that screening for bias and partiality is itself litmus test. Indeed, it is a right and salutary litmus test. However, it lacks power and significance if one does not ask by what standard a nominee would determine bias and partiality in order to render an opinion according to precedence and the facts in the case. That is, one must know the absolute rules by which a nominee would judge the relative and contextual legal merit of arguments. Put another way, I won’t trust a length measurement unless I am reasonably certain that the ruler or tape used is accurate and sufficiently precise for the scale and purpose of measurement.

This leads me to an ideological litmus test that subsumes that just mentioned and that is entirely appropriate and essential for SCOTUS nominees. That test is whether as a justice he or she would interpret the Constitution and preceding opinions according to a Jeffersonian or Hamiltonian hermeneutic. Jefferson favored a narrow interpretation that would forbid any power to the federal government not explicitly granted to it by the Constitution, thus binding it in tight chains. Hamilton favored a broad interpretation that would grant any power to the federal government not explicitly forbidden by the Constitution, thus hardly binding it at all.

Were I a senator on the Judiciary Committee, I would not vote to confirm any nominee explicitly or tacitly approving of the Hamiltonian hermeneutic. I make no apology for that. Rather, I demand an explanation and apology from those committee members who would not apply such a test.

Jun 252009
 

In his dissenting opinion in Safford Unified School District No. 1 v. Redding, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the strip search of a middle-schooler was justfiable and out of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.

“Preservation of order, discipline and safety in public schools is simply not the domain of the Constitution,” he said. “And, common sense is not a judicial monopoly or a constitutional imperative.”

First of all, I don’t believe public education itself is permitted by the Constitution, but I’m sure Justice Thomas would disagree. Secondly, the actions of a school official would not likely be a constitutional issue if the school in question were not public. Thirdly, because the school in question is public, the constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure ought to apply. After all, the Bill of Rights was intended to protect individuals from the abuses and depredations of the state. Lastly, why the hell would a child not have a reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to undressed body?!

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