Government & Law

An Improved Legislative Process for Our Times?

February 4, 2019

We live in a time when the political process is combative and confrontational.  We are very polarized with many special intent factions.  Winning is paramount, while the best interests of the Nation and our democracy have become low order priorities.  The political struggles and gamesmanship have resulted in a condition where little is accomplished.  Clearly our democracy is suffering.  So what might be done?

There are many facets to this problem.  Let’s consider one – the legislative process.  So what are the issues?  Much legislation is drafted by special interests.  Legislation is complicated and technical.  It is brought up for a vote without time for study.  It is voted along party lines without even cursory reading.  The public has little to no insight prior to a vote.  Final drafts are often modified with special interest changes.  In short, in a democracy for and by the people, the people nor the people’s representatives have minimal sight and say on the details.  There is clearly a need for more transparency in the process and more accountability for how and what is legislated.

I have a suggestion on how the process might be improved.  The legislative process should require two votes, one preliminary and one final, with a period of time, say 5 days minimum, between the votes.  If the first vote fails to pass, it is over.  If it passes the first, preliminary vote, the proposed legislation and the preliminary vote record is posted online for public review.  This allows the public, subject matter experts and legal authorities to comment via social media and direct response to legislators.  The public sentiment is made apparent.  Plus the politicians who voted must support their vote to their home constituents and face the public pressure.  Only after this public exposure and reaction is a final vote taken.  Such a process would expand the political process from the confines of the legislature and associated lobbyists to the full public scrutiny.  Yes, in may add some inefficiency to the process, but this is far outweighed by broadening of citizen involvement, counter lobbyist pressure and increased political accountability.

Photo by Kimtaro

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