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Read the Bill

“Read the bill.”

It’s a common-sense demand from people who want to be sure that their representatives are doing their jobs. But it’s also a stand-in for the desire of many to better understand what is happening in Washington, D.C.

Lots of different transparency reforms might help address the problem people have when they say they want members of Congress to read bills before voting on them.

But at least one proposal takes “read the bill” quite literally. That’s H.R. 760, the Readable Legislation Act of 2013.

It’s one of only two bills introduced so far this Congress by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). (The other is H. J. Res. 24, a balanced budget constitutional amendment, one among many.) Amash caught our eye as a candidate a few years ago because of his transparency stances.

H.R. 760 would amend federal law to require bills in Congress to set forth the laws they amend “sufficiently to enable the intent and effect of the bill or joint resolution to be clearly understood. Omissions and insertions proposed shall be shown by appropriate typographical devices.”

So instead of bill text that strikes some language in one place and adds some language another—impossible to understand if you don’t already know the law or do a lot of research—the bills introduced in Congress would lay out the whole law being amended, with strikethroughs and bold text to show how the law would change.

Here, for example, is the text of H.R. 747, which would require women to register with the Selective Service System:

SECTION 1. NONDISCRIMINATION IN APPLICATION OF MILITARY SELECTIVE SERVICE REGISTRATION REQUIREMENT FOR CITIZENS AND CERTAIN RESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES.

(a) Applicability to All Citizens and Residents Within Specified Age Range- Section 3(a) of the Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 453(a)) is amended–

(1) in the first sentence–

(A) by striking `male’ both places it appears; and

(B) by inserting `or herself’ after `himself’; and

(2) in the second sentence, by striking `he continues’ and inserting `the alien continues’.

(b) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (a) shall take effect 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

Here’s how it would look under H.R. 760:

SECTION 1. NONDISCRIMINATION IN APPLICATION OF MILITARY SELECTIVE SERVICE REGISTRATION REQUIREMENT FOR CITIZENS AND CERTAIN RESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES.

(a) Applicability to All Citizens and Residents Within Specified Age Range- Section 3(a) of the Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 453(a)) is amended to read as follows–

“(a) Except as otherwise provided in this title it shall be the duty of every male citizen of the United States, and every other male person residing in the United States, who, on the day or days fixed for the first or any subsequent registration, is between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, to present himself or herself for and submit to registration at such time or times and place or places, and in such manner, as shall be determined by proclamation of the President and by rules and regulations prescribed hereunder. The provisions of this section shall not be applicable to any alien lawfully admitted to the United States as a nonimmigrant under section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (66 Stat. 163; 8 U.S.C. 1101), for so long as he continues the alien continues to maintain a lawful nonimmigrant status in the United States.”

(b) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (a) shall take effect 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

This is the way bills look in most state legislatures. Having bills in Congress look like this would make it easier for our representatives to know what they’re voting on. It would make it easier for all of us to know what they’re voting on.

It seems like common sense. H.R. 760 is a natural winner.

Bills don’t pass themselves, though. If you agree with this reform, you should contact your member of Congress and your senators asking them to cosponsor the bill and vote for it, if the chance arises. If you disagree with this reform, of course you should tell that to your representatives, too.

Visitor Comments for Read the Bill RSS 2.0

G. Cabell

Very nice, but the packaging doesn’t address the real problem: introducing final versions of bills, sometimes huge bills, just hours or minutes before the vote – thus not giving members any chance to read such bills.

cubapete

The packaging addresses the problem, e.g., only the parts of a bill which will be modified will appear in final version of a change…not the entire bill. If some bills are pushed through that fast and congressmen are that worried about what it might contain, then vote it down. We shouldn’t make laws in this country in a hurry-up fashion and try to sneak them through with wordy descriptions. That’s just stupid and morally corrupt.

WashingtonWatch.com Digest – March 4, 2013 | US Senators

[...] Read about it in a post entitled: “Read the Bill.” [...]

Please do this. - Gun & Game - Gun Forum Community

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