August 10th, 2010 by rlaager

Mirrored from Slashdot:

Make the following change to the Constitution:

Each year, before any new law can be created or any existing law modified, the Speaker of the House must first read aloud every last federal law on the books while all other members of Congress listen. If that takes more than one year (and the federal tax code alone would easily do so) then Congress is allowed only to repeal existing laws the following year. The next year after that, the reading aloud begins again and only if completed within one year can a new law be passed or an old law modified. –causality

This would never work, because as you pointed out, it’s impractical from the start. A better approach would be to pass a constitutional amendment that provides for a mandatory sunset of laws. Ideally, you’d also require codification of all laws.

So the amendment would say something like, “1) All new laws passed by Congress must be codified into titles. 2) Each title (or existing uncodified law) shall automatically sunset and be removed from the official record of titles after __ years from the later of its original passage or last renewal. 3) For the purposes of this amendment, laws existing at the time of this amendment’s ratification which were originally passed over __ years previous shall be considered to have been last renewed at a date within the last __ years, with the date randomly assigned by the ____ office.”

Thus, you’d cause all existing laws to sunset slowly over the next __ years (for whatever value you fill in), and they’d have to be codified when they were renewed.

Then, if you want to help keep laws simple (which seems good in theory, but may just push the complexity to the executive branch’s rulemaking process) and ensure there’s been adequate time to read them before voting (which I support), you could pass another amendment (or add another section) that says, “Any law passed by Congress must have been read aloud in full by a representative or senator, as appropriate, or it shall be null and void.” Obviously, the exact wording of these amendments might need some tweaking, but it seems more sustainable. –rlaager

The following was another reply to the posting I quoted above (i.e. it was not a reply to my reply):

I’d rather have a 66% required to pass laws, all laws have a sunset clause exponentially longer every time it is passed (1yr, 2yr, 4yr, 8yr, 16yr etc…) and to pass from a sunset vote it requires 75% acceptance due to being in action due to the benefits should be obvious. –ArsonSmith

Why do you need increasing sunset lengths? A statute against murder, for example, should be easy to renew. It’d take a few minutes at most, even if you require a voice reading of the full text. I’d imagine if you used unanimous consent or voice votes, you could renew all the obvious, non-controversial laws in a couple of days sessions, at most. Is someone really going to be the jerk that fillibusters the law against murdering the President (murder being a state issue and fillibusters being a federal Senate thing, I had to specify this more)? It seems like their party (since political parties aren’t going to disappear any time soon) would quash any attempts at that because of how the public would react. –rlaager

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