DownsizeDC.org
December 6, 2007
It's Not Just Congress
By James Wilson
Today's Downsizer-Dispatch . . . SUBJECT: The Read the Bills Act

Americans have a right to be angry at the way Congress does things. But what goes on in Congress also goes on in our state legislatures, and even foreign parliaments.

New Zealand, for instance, is considering an election finance bill that favors incumbents and cracks down on freedom of speech and third parties (sound familiar?). It's so bad that the New Zealand Herald has now run two front-page editorials against it.

Worse, the bill is "nearly impossible to read. ... It’s so bad a commission can’t interpret the bill to determine if it's legal." Source: Dumb Laws in the News

And here's a story closer to home. Three weeks ago, a joint committee in the Utah legislature considered a bill that would prevent the state's Retirement System from investing in foreign companies that do business in Iran. Concerns were raised about the effectiveness and possible unintended consequences of the bill. But as the Salt Lake Tribune reports, this didn't stop one "principled" committee member, who gives the world this amazing quote:

"We get bound up here all the time on 'we don't understand this.' Well, there's a lot of things we vote on that we don't understand, but I would rather stand on the principle of 'let's go for it.' " - Utah State Sen. Chris Buttars

Sen. Buttars also called for a roll call vote on the measure, to gauge the "patriotism" of each member. The bill passed. Source: Salt Lake Tribune

Passing complicated, unreadable bills that attack our basic freedoms. Rushing to pass bills without understanding them or caring about the consequences. Why do legislatures do these things? Because they can. Because no one is forcing them to read the bills they pass.

New Zealand needs a Read the Bills Act. Utah needs a Read the Bills Act. Indeed, every legislature in the world needs a Read the Bills Act.

But we need to start somewhere, and Congress is the perfect place. After all, in the week of Nov 12-19, the House passed 29 bills totaling 1046 pages, and the Senate passed 23 bills totaling 256 pages. What more evidence do we need that Congress pays little attention to most of the bills they pass?  (The list of bills is at the end of this Dispatch.)

Downsize DC's Read the Bills Act will require all proposed bills to be read before a quorum in Congress. Every one who votes for a bill must sign an affidavit the he or she has attentively read the bill or heard it read. 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. 

Unreadable bills will be a thing of the past. Congress couldn't rush to pass questionable bills under the principle of "let's go for it," because the people will have a fair chance of contacting them and expressing their opposition. To learn more about the Read the Bills Act, click here.

Tell  your Representative and Senators that they will advance the cause of liberty and representative government by introducing and passing the Read the Bills Act. You can do so here.

And to add your website or blog to the Read the Bills Act Coalition, click here.

By joining the Coalition, you will give your readers an opportunity to learn about the Read the Bills Act and join in the campaign. We will also link to your site at our blog, and introduce it to our readers in a Dispatch like this one.

Today we welcome two new members to the Read the Bills Act Coalition

The Contemporary Conservative

War Inside My Head

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

James Wilson
Assistant to the President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc. The following are the bills the House and Senate passed last week. The bills were passed by voice vote except where indicated. Roll call votes for the House are found here, and for the Senate here. The descriptions of bills are essentially taken verbatim from the Congressional Record Daily Digest. Page numbers of bills are based on the pdf display of the latest version from the Government Printing Office. HOUSE 29 bills, 1046 pages Act Commemorating the LITE, or Lifetime Innovations of Thomas Edison: H.R. 2627, to establish the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in the State of New Jersey as the successor to the Edison National Historic Site. 8 pages Amending the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in certain water projects in California: H.R. 2614, to D1514amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in certain water projects in California. 6 pages Providing that the great hall of the Capitol Visitor Center shall be known as Emancipation Hall: H.R. 3315, to provide that the great hall of the Capitol Visitor Center shall be known as Emancipation Hall, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 398 yeas to 6 nays, Roll No. 1082; 4 pages Compacts of Free Association Amendments Act of 2007: H.R. 2705, amended, to amend the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003; 20 pages Amending section 5112(p)(1)(A) of title 31, United States Code, to allow an exception from the $1 coin dispensing capability requirement for certain vending machines: H.R. 3703, to amend section 5112(p)(1)(A) of title 31, United States Code, to allow an exception from the $1 coin dispensing capability requirement for certain vending machines; 4 pages Mercury Export Ban Act of 2007: H.R. 1534, amended, to prohibit the sale, distribution, or transfer of mercury and to prohibit the export of mercury; 20 pages 911 Modernization and Public Safety Act of 2007: H.R. 3403, amended, to promote and enhance public safety by facilitating the rapid deployment of IP-enabled 911 and E-911 services, encouraging the nation's transition to a national IP-enabled emergency network and improve 911 and E-911 access to those with disabilities, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 406 yeas to 1 nay, Roll No. 1084; 16 pages Broadband Census of America Act of 2007: H.R. 3919, amended, to provide for a comprehensive nationwide inventory of existing broadband service; 24 pages Safeguarding America's Families by Enhancing and Reorganizing New and Efficient Technologies Act of 2007: H.R. 3461, amended, to establish a public awareness campaign regarding Internet safety, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 398 yeas to 6 nays, Roll No. 1085; 8 pages Attorney-Client Privilege Protection Act of 2007: H.R. 3013, amended, to provide appropriate protection to attorney-client privileged communications and attorney work product; 8 pages Second Chance Act of 2007: H.R. 1593, amended, to reauthorize the grant program for reentry of offenders into the community in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and to improve reentry planning and implementation, by a 2/3 yea-and-nay vote of 347 yeas to 62 nays, Roll No. 1083; 98 pages Directing the Attorney General to provide grants for Internet crime prevention education programs: H.R. 4134, to direct the Attorney General to provide grants for Internet crime prevention education programs; 6 pages John Sidney ``Sid'' Flowers Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 3470, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 744 West Oglethorpe Highway in Hinesville, Georgia, as the ``John Sidney `Sid' Flowers Post Office Building''; 1 page Beatrice E. Watson Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 3569, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 16731 Santa Ana Avenue in Fontana, California, as the ``Beatrice E. Watson Post Office Building''; 1 page Marine Corps Corporal Steven P. Gill Post Office Building Designation Act: H.R. 3974, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 797 Sam Bass Road in Round Rock, Texas, as the ``Marine Corps Corporal Steven P. Gill Post Office Building''; 1 page Making certain technical corrections and transition amendments to the College Cost Reduction and Access Act: H.R. 4153, amended, to make certain technical corrections and transition amendments to the College Cost Reduction and Access Act; 6 pages Increasing the insurance limitations on Federal insurance for bonds issued by the designated bonding authority for Historically Black Colleges and Universities capital financing: H.R. 4154, to increase the insurance limitations on Federal insurance for bonds issued by the designated bonding authority for Historically Black Colleges and Universities capital financing. 4 pages Support for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews Act of 2007: H.R. 3320, to provide assistance for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland; 6 pages PROTECT Our Children Act of 2007: H.R. 3845, amended, to establish a Special Counsel for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction within the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, to improve the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, to increase resources for regional computer forensic labs, and to make other improvements to increase the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute child predators; 30 pages Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2007: H.R. 719, amended, to require convicted sex offenders to register online identifiers; 8 pages Effective Child Pornography Prosecution Act of 2007: H.R. 4120, to amend title 18, United States Code, to provide for more effective prosecution of cases involving child pornography; 6 pages Amending title 18 of the United States Code to clarify the scope of the child pornography laws: H.R. 4136, amended, to amend title 18 of the United States Code to clarify the scope of the child pornography laws. 4 pages Head Start for School Readiness Act: The House agreed to the conference report to accompany H.R. 1429, to reauthorize the Head Start Act, to improve program quality, and to expand access, by a yea-and-nay vote of 381 yeas to 36 nays, Roll No. 1090. 162 pages Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008: The House agreed to the conference report to accompany H.R. 3074, making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, by a yea-and-nay vote of 270 yeas to 147 nays, Roll No. 1102. 131 pages Effective Child Pornography Prosecution Act of 2007: H.R. 4120, to amend title 18, United States Code, to provide for more effective prosecution of cases involving child pornography, by a \2/3\ yea-and-nay vote of 409 yeas with none voting ``nay'', Roll No. 1105. 6 pages Orderly and Responsible Iraq Redeployment Appropriations Act, 2008: The House passed H.R. 4156, making emergency supplemental appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, by a yea-and-nay vote of 218 yeas to 203 nays with 1 voting ``present'', Roll No. 1108. 30 pages Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007: The House passed H.R. 3915, to amend the Truth in Lending Act to reform consumer mortgage practices and provide accountability for such practices, to establish licensing and registration requirements for residential mortgage originators, and to provide certain minimum standards for consumer mortgage loans, by a yea-and-nay vote of 291 yeas to 127 nays, Roll No. 1118. 190 pages Head Start for School Readiness Act: The House agreed to the conference report to accompany H.R. 1429, to reauthorize the Head Start Act, to improve program quality, and to expand access, by a yea-and-nay vote of 381 yeas to 36 nays, Roll No. 1090. 192 pages RESTORE Act of 2007: The House passed H.R. 3773, to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, by a recorded vote of 227 yeas to 189 nays, Roll No. 1120. Consideration of the measure began on October 17th. 46 pages SENATE 23 bills, 256 pages Breast Cancer Research Postage Stamp Extension: Senate passed S. 597, to extend the special postage stamp for breast cancer research for 4 years. 4 pages Head Start for School Readiness Act--Conference Report: By a unanimous vote of 95 yeas (Vote No. 409), Senate agreed to the conference report to accompany H.R. 1429, to reauthorize the Head Start Act, to improve program quality, to expand access, clearing the measure for the President. 192 pages Higher Education Act Technical Corrections: Senate passed S. 2371, to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to make technical corrections. 4 pages Emancipation Hall: Committee on Rules and Administration was discharged from further consideration of S. 1679, to provide that the great hall of the Capitol Visitor Center shall be known as Emancipation Hall, and the bill was then passed. 4 pages Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act: Senate passed S. 2168, to amend title 18, United States Code, to enable increased federal prosecution of identity theft crimes and to allow for restitution to victims of identity theft, after agreeing to the committee amendments. 16 pages Terrorism Risk Insurance Revision and Extension Act: Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs was discharged from further consideration of H.R. 2761, to extend the Terrorism Insurance Program of the Department of the Treasury, and the bill was then passed, after agreeing to the following amendment proposed thereto. 13 pages Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act: Senate passed H.R. 50, to reauthorize the African Elephant Conservation Act and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994, clearing the measure for the President. 4 pages Asian Elephant Conservation Reauthorization Act: Senate passed H.R. 465, to reauthorize the Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997, clearing the measure for the President. 4 pages Larry S. Pierce Post Office: Senate passed S. 2110, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 427 North Street in Taft, California, as the ``Larry S. Pierce Post Office''. 1 page Paul E. Gillmor Post Office Building: Senate passed S. 2174, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 175 South Monroe Street in Tiffin, Ohio, as the ``Paul E. Gillmor Post Office Building''. 1 page Beatrice E. Watson Post Office Building: Senate passed S. 2290, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 16731 Santa Ana Avenue in Fontana, California, as the ``Beatrice E. Watson Post Office Building''. 1 page Louisiana Armed Services Veterans Post Office: Senate passed H.R. 2089, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 701 Loyola Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana, as the ``Louisiana Armed Services Veterans Post Office'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Corporal Christopher E. Esckelson Post Office Building: Senate passed H.R. 2276, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 203 North Main Street in Vassar, Michigan, as the ``Corporal Christopher E. Esckelson Post Office Building'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Nate DeTample Post Office Building: Senate passed H.R. 3297, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 950 West Trenton Avenue in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, as the ``Nate DeTample Post Office Building'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Dennis P. Collins Post Office Building: Senate passed H.R. 3307, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 570 Broadway in Bayonne, New Jersey, as the ``Dennis P. Collins Post Office Building'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Charles H. Hendrix Post Office Building: Senate passed H.R. 3518, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1430 South D1545Highway 29 in Cantonment, Florida, as the ``Charles H. Hendrix Post Office Building'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Weaver Post Office Building: Senate passed H.R. 3530, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1400 Highway 41 North in Inverness, Florida, as the ``Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Weaver Post Office Building'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Lance Corporal David K. Fribley Post Office: Senate passed H.R. 3308, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 216 East Main Street in Atwood, Indiana, as the ``Lance Corporal David K. Fribley Post Office'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Corporal Stephen R. Bixler Post Office: Senate passed H.R. 3325, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 235 Mountain Road in Suffield, Connecticut, as the ``Corporal Stephen R. Bixler Post Office'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Philip A. Baddour, Sr. Post Office: Senate passed H.R. 3382, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 200 North William Street in Goldsboro, North Carolina, as the ``Philip A. Baddour, Sr. Post Office'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Michael W. Schragg Post Office Building: Senate passed H.R. 3446, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 202 East Michigan Avenue in Marshall, Michigan, as the ``Michael W. Schragg Post Office Building'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page Wallace S. Hartsfield Post Office Building: Senate passed H.R. 3572, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4320 Blue Parkway in Kansas City, Missouri, as the ``Wallace S. Hartsfield Post Office Building'', clearing the measure for the President. 1 page John ``Marty'' Thiels Southpark Station: Senate passed S. 2272, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service known as the Southpark Station in Alexandria, Louisiana, as the John ``Marty'' Thiels Southpark Station, in honor and memory of Thiels, a Louisiana postal worker who was killed in the line of duty on October 4, 2007. 1 page
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