Friday, May 09, 2008

Legislative Tarballs

Ok, here's a pet peeve of mine: bundling 47 completely different pieces of legislation into one bill. What a cop out!

Take the minimum wage hike that the Democrats pushed through in 2007. The title, Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, sounds like a self-contained piece of legislation, right? I mean, it's an entire ACT. However, here's the trick. Both parties in Congress got together and they merge all this stuff into one massive bill called:

U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007

So this bill, based on just the title, already deals with troops in Iraq, veterans health care, Katrina assistance allocations, and money for Iraq. There (which already seems like somewhat of a lot for one bill). Yet, they weren't done. They decided to include the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 into a single section of the whole bill. Scanning throu
gh the text of the bill I feel that this whole thing is basically just one big "give more money to X program" bill. Which, if spent on US programs would only be questionable. But as I looked a little more closely, I found that there is allocated money for helping Liberia get out of debt, conditions for granting Pakistan an extra $5million, and conditions for possibly considering lowering the amount of money we give to Lebanon. I could go on and on with little questionable allocations, but beyond those questions, the main thing that I wondered was 'Why would they bundle everything in one massive piece of legislation like this? Don't they know that makes it harder to determine what's in the bill?'

Then it hit me. Of course they do. By putting both raising minimum wage (Democrat item) in the same bill as continuing the funding of Iraq (Republican item), they both win. They both look like they've successfully gotten what they wanted. And even better, if someone looks at their voting history and sees that they voted for this bill, they can each point to their own item and say "I voted for this bill because of this item. I believed it was more important than what was wrong with the rest." Not to mention that by making the whole thing so enormous, it's less likely that someone would stumble across some of these inane addendums. This is exactly how all those pork barrel projects get into these bills.

Now I'm not a policy expert, and definitely not a legal mind, but it seems to me it would be a good thing to require that a bill ONLY contains things that have directly to do with the title of the bill; or at least that the items in a bill explicitly have to do with each other. They should not be able to allocate money for a peanut factory in Georgia in the same bill that sets
business reporting requirements. Basically it should be proper parliamentary procedure to challenge a section of a bill that it isn't sufficiently related to the core subject of the bill. This would at least make those that want it in there to get up and defend why they want it included. I think it would be at least entertaining to see Senator Robert Byrd get up their and defend the need for his appropriation of money to the 'Robert L. Byrd Expressway' in the campaign finance reform bill.

1 comment :

  1. You sound like you would support the bill One Subject at a Time Act

    This bill can be found here and basically says that a bill's title must reflect what the bill does and the bill may only consist of content directly related to the bill itself.