Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

How I Think The Constitution Can Be Fixed (Part III [c]: Article I – The Legislative Branch)

In Congress, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on June 15, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Section 6, paragraph one deals with Congressional compensation for their services.  Many years ago, Congress enacted standing legislation to provide them with regular pay raises UNLESS Congress, at the time of EACH particular raise, actively raises the issue and votes against it.  This is one of the examples I was referring to when I talked about how Congress makes what will be their path of least resistance be what benefits them, rather than the people.  Thus, if Congress does NOTHING, is silent and doesn’t even raise the issue, they get their raise each year.  In ADDITION, they get unbelievable pensions based on how long they served as well as life time healthcare.

To me, this is another simple issue to deal with.  Tie the salaries of ALL federally elected officials to the median incomes of the American people, not counting bonuses or other backdoor ways of hitching things a little higher for them. Based on the real and reported income of all citizens who file income tax reports, divided by ALL citizens, let’s say that (as a starting point for discussion), members of the House would receive an annual salary based on what 60% of the median incomes of all Americans equals to, with Officers of The House getting 62.5%.  Members of The Senate would get a salary based on 65% of the median income, with Senate officers getting 67.5%.  Members of the Supreme Court would get 70% of the median, with The Chief Justice and The Vice President getting 72.5%.  Finally, the highest salary allowed would go to The President, with the salary of that office being based on the 75% of the median incomes of all Americans.

Now, I want everyone to notice something.  I did NOT say that these salaries should be based on mean, or AVERAGE incomes (the total of all incomes divided by the total number of people), I said that they would b based on the MEAN incomes.  The mean is a statistical average based on the individual numbers which are ranked from highest to lowest.  Thus, Bill Gates is only one statistical number, while a disabled elderly person who has an annual income of $5,000 is another individual number equal to Bill Gates.  A median average would give a much more accurate picture of how much average Americans earn and tie the salaries of Constitutional and elected Federal officials to that average.

So, what would THIS accomplish?  Several things; for one, it would make elected Federal officials more caring about how much money the American people have because their own welfare would be improved by having more people earning (and reporting) higher incomes.  In fact, the more income earned by those at the bottom quarter, half and three-quarter marks of the social ladder, the higher the income they would make themselves.  For another, it would increase their focus on eliminating loopholes which allow people to underreport their own incomes. The fiscal conservatives tend to support theories which state that there is a finite amount of REAL income (as opposed to, say, capital income) which is available.  Thus, to raise the income levels of those at the lower ends of the social ladder would mean that the additional monies would have to come at the expense of the earnings of those at the top of the social ladder.  For yet another thing, the more money earned by AND KEPT by corporations and businesses is money that is NOT increasing the income levels of the bottom three-quarters of the income bracket.  This would make Congress more likely to support higher individual wages and eliminate more corporate loopholes.  Again, the more money earned by the most people would benefit them personally… and if the incomes of average Americans goes down, so does theirs.  We would all swim or sink together.  Their pay rates would be worked out and modified every two calendar years to coincide with election cycles.

As for pensions and permanent healthcare, I do not believe that people should make holding elective or political offices their primary livelihoods.  I am against, as I have said before, a professional political class.  I believe in the founders’ idea of people who would make sacrifices in their own lives of short periods of time to serve their nation with their public service and would then go back to their public lives.  Thus, ANY elected official, or any official who is subject to Senate approval would not earn ANY pension or retirement benefits for their time in service.  Regarding members of The Supreme Court, I will deal with them in the part(s) of this article which deal with Article III of The Constitution.

Section 6, paragraph two is the one that says that no Senator or Representative can hold another civil office in The United States during their tenure in their respective House, and that no officer or official of The United States can serve as a Senator or Representative while they hold their other office or position.  This, among other things, is what prevents us from having a Parliamentary system of government and ensures that the membership of each branch of government will be totally and completely distinct and separate from the others.  It also says that:

No Senator or Representative shall… be appointed to any civil office under the authority of The United States which shall have been CREATED, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been Increased during such time [as they served as a Senator or Representative]…”

THIS portion of The Constitution does need to be addressed to clarify, one way or the other, what authority the Executive branch does or doesn’t  have to appoint sitting or recently sitting members of Congress to other civil positions … especially with automatic pay raises being provided for all such civil offices.  Either our Constitution very specifically prohibits this and it is accepted by all members of our government or we change it.  I personally would rather leave it as it is and expect our government to abide by such limitations.

Well, I think this is a good place to end this part of this article.  When we come back, I will address the rest of Article III, including legislation to raise revenue, the budget, and the enumerated powers and authorities of Congress.

(This article will be continued in Part III [d], which will continue discussing Article I of The Constitution.)

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M.  Blavier

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

How I Think The Constitution Can Be Fixed (Part III [b]: Article I – The Legislative Branch)

In Congress, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on June 11, 2009 at 1:52 am

From Article I, Section 3, paragraphs six and seven, the portions of the provisions for either House regarding impeachment require no changes other than possibly the provision that the threat of and right to impeach is a constitutional DUTY of Congress and it cannot surrender its willingness to implement that duty when it is called for.  To do so is malfeasance in the performance of their constitutional duties and should subject any members of Congress who are willing to agree to surrender their willingness to fulfill ANY of their obligations and duties under The Constitution.

Section 4 of Article I deals with the times and places of elections of Representatives and Senators, and with the requirement for Congress to meet at least once every year.

I think that the provisions for periods of adjournments and recesses by Congress are not appropriate to our modern day government.  For those who argue that they do not want Congress in session any longer than it has to be, while I don’t entirely disagree with them, I think the larger and more important issue is how just adjournments and recesses empower the Executive branch as the expense of the Legislative branch.  While I will deal more with such things as ‘recess appointments’ in the part(s) of this article which deal Article II of The Constitution (The Executive Branch), I am against ANYTHING which serves to make the Legislative branch less than equal to the Executive branch, much less subservient to it.  Thus, I think that Congress should never be considered in recess and only be adjourned by standing legislation which provides for pre-defined periods of adjournment, focused around legal federal holidays (not religious holidays) and, say, a single one week-long adjournment each  quarter of the year… each one, preferably centered around an appropriate federal holiday each quarter.  At ALL other times it would be required to be in session (and remember, I would not allow for any member of Congress to hold office for more than a single term, so there would be no NEED for Congress to be in adjournment during election cycles).

Section 5 deals with various procedural matters (such as judging their own elections, the power to compel attendance by absent members, and the prohibition against adjourning for more than three days while in session).  Paragraph two deals with allowing each House to punish and/or expel its own members.  It also states that each House shall determine its own rules for proceedings.  Paragraph three covers the requirements of each House to keep a journal of its proceedings ad periodically publish those journals, as well as the requirement of each House to record the ‘Yeas and Nays’ (i.e. – the votes) of each House and to publish those totals for either House upon the request of one-fifth of the membership of that House.

While The Constitution should not get into the minutia of establishing all of the rules for either House, there are some which I think it would be appropriate to enact, enshrine and enforce within The Constitution.  Among these are:

1.)   No office created by either House of Congress can be specific to any particular political party.  While any party can choose to elect its own leadership by whatever methods it wants, it does not mean that those elected to such offices are deserving of extra pay by the nation or extra privileges and powers within Congress for holding an office restricted to the members of that Party.

2.)  All officers elected by either House should be selected by secret nomination and secret ballot.  I would also recommend the use of Approval Voting for the actual elections.  Again, this would be to try to help break the stranglehold on power which any party holds simply by having more members that any other party.  This provision would probably result in most offices being held by less extremist party loyalists.  If our nation can succeed in establishing a viable third-party, it will throw the current methods of selecting Congressional offices in the toilet anyway.  Let’s do what we can to speed that process up a bit.

3.)   All ballots casts by members of either House should be cast in secret and the individual results of any vote kept but only revealed (published) 25 years later for historical purposes.  Now, I know that this one is going to be met with shock by most people.  After all, how else are we supposed to keep tabs of what these people actually do?  Well, stop and think about this one for awhile.  Let me explain my reasoning for this idea.  Why do WE cast OUR ballots in secret?  So that no one WILL know exactly how we voted which, among other things, limits to ability of anyone else to threaten or intimidate us.  Open balloting in Congress does not help ‘we the people’, it helps the parties, lobbyists and special interest groups keep members of Congress in line with what benefits THEM the most, not what benefits us the most.  Open balloting in Congress allows the political parties, the lobbyists, the special interests groups, the media and, yes, even the people to threaten and intimidate individual Congress who might otherwise have the will to vote their according to their conscious as they believe is right rather than how others want to compel them to vote.   This is also one of the major ways that the two parties effectively prevent other viable parties from having a voice in our system of government (the other major way that they accomplish this is by the maintenance of our current Majoritarian / Plurality election system). (Please see my earlier article on ‘The Laboratory of Democracy — Alternative Voting Methods (Approval Voting) [Re-edit]’ for a more detailed explanation of this idea.)  It is also what allows small groups of extremists to move the politics in Congress in extremist directions and which makes moderate or centrist positions untenable to maintain.

With a provision that, in an investigation, a select independent committee can review specific votes and make them public IF they show evidence or a pattern of corruption, malfeasance or negligence, but also with a protection provision that baseless accusation for no purpose other than to discover what a personal voting record is will be a felony, this provision could provide safety and protection for those legislators who do want to go along with their party’s line on any particular issue.  So, how is a member of Congress judged if their individual votes are not known?  They would be judged in two ways. First, they would be judged by what they say on the record and, second, they would be judged by what their House accomplishes or FAILS to accomplish.  Under this method, ALL members of a House are collectively responsible for what that House does or doesn’t do… they rise or fall together.   This means that their motivation which change to being how can they work together to make them all look good.  Just think about it for awhile, ok?

4.)  Right now, most legislation includes meaningless introductions which tell us how wonderful it is and how it will single-handedly make the world a better place to live (and they are capped off with some kind of sensationalist title which will make those who vote against it sound like they are bad Americans for voting against it… especially those who don’t actually read the proposed legislation that they are voting on.  I believe that ALL legislation proposed and voted on in either House of Congress should include measurable and quantifiable goals, and specific objectives to indicate what will be considered a successful result of the legislation.  Goals and objectives, strategies and tactics.  I also believe all legislative objectives should include a time frame by which the legislation must accomplish its goals or it will automatically cease to have legal standing.  This is not a meaningless point.  The example I like to use has to do with Civil Rights legislation.  Under the legislation as written, neither side of the debate has an actual motivation to see the objectives of the legislation accomplished.  Each side uses it as a weapon with which to attack the other, and leaders on both sides have built their power bases upon the on-going conflict it engenders.  There is more political power to be gained by keeping the conflict going than there is in accomplishing its purposes.  Now, imagine if that legislation had included measurable, definable and quantifiable goals AND it had an objective of accomplishing those goals in, say, 25 years.  One way or the other the legislation would end; the only question would be “when” it would end.  Those who are fighting for the achievement of those civil rights would have been motivated to make sure that the goals were achieved before the end of the 25-year deadline so as to get them in place, and the side which was not in favor of the penalties and restrictions imposed by the legislation would be motivated to accomplish those goals as quickly as possible so that the legislation would go away as quickly as possible.  In either case, if the goals were either not achieved or led to the consideration of additional goals, new legislation could be crafted and proposed at that time which would better meet the needs of that time and that generation.  The purpose of this proposal is to give ALL sides reasons to work together to accomplish things rather than give them reasons to fight against each other endlessly.

To justify why this should be import, keep in mind all of the calls by the people and politicians for, and interpretations by the courts based on what the ‘intention of the founders’ was.  Intention is difficult to know, and impossible to speculate on to determine law when those intentions are never officially, and reliably set forth and documented.  The fact that the founders destroyed all OFFICIAL minutes and notes from The Constitutional Convention can only leave us with one of two ways to make such judgments; either the founders did not WANT us to base our interpretations and decisions based on what THEY intended (which means that we do, in fact, have a LIVING Constitution), OR, they did not understand how important it would be to us to be able to discern their intentions when we try to interpret what they intended.  We need to not only insure that the present generation fully understands what we are trying to do and what we want to accomplish, we need future generations to understand why we felt each specific law was necessary… our intentions, in other words.  Goals and objectives would make legislation easier to interpret and less likely to be twisted and MISinterpreted by other.  It would also allow those who read a law thoroughly to see if the actual content and execution of the law is true to its goals and objectives.

5.)  That idea leads us to Thomas Jefferson’s theories of generational laws.  He said “[B]etween society and society, or generation and generation, there is no municipal obligation, no umpire but the law of nature. . . . [B]y the law of nature, one generation is [therefore] to another as one independent nation to another.”  He also said “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.” (http://www.conlaw.org/Intergenerational-II-2-9.htm) I believe in the idea of generational laws (with all laws having a natural expiration deadline of either 25 or 50 years (generations being longer now that they were when Jefferson wrote that, and some laws being more important than others), depending on the law, with 25 being the norm and 50 being the exception, for several reasons.  First, laws seem to work conversely to the adage that it is easier to destroy than it is to build.  With law, it is easier to pass one than it is to get rid of one.  When politicians or officials come along later and try to have a law removed from the books, the tendency is to wonder what ulterior motives they ‘really have (no matter how bad or irrelevant the law might be) and political inertia tends to win.

As a result, our legal systems end up cluttered with an unbelievable number of laws which are either (a) no longer of any value, (b) no longer in sync with the progress of our culture or, (c) just plain stupid.  A generational law standard would mean, first of all, that no one would have to actively campaign or fight to have laws actively removed piecemeal.  By doing nothing the laws will just go away.  If they still have value or there is still a need for them, they can be re-written and passed again. Secondly, the future will not be bound by considerations or standards of the past which no longer apply to them.  Thirdly, politicians are, by nature, egomaniacs who want to be immortal, and the way a politician becomes immortal is by sticking us with their own ideas of how we should live (i.e. – with laws).  When all of the basic laws are already in place, they have to go farther and farther to find their own immortality.  I would rather have them continually working on and improving basic legislation than to have them spending their time finding cruel and unusual ways to torment, punish and control ‘we the people’.

6.)  I think that all of us, all of us who are not in Congress, at least, would agree that the Legislative Amendment process is out of control and all too easily abused by politicians who cannot get their own moronic ideas passed into law on their own merits; or who want to ‘game the system’ by attaching bad legislation to other legislation that, itself, cannot be voted down.  Riders and amendments are a bane to good legislation which can be (a) understood, (b) respected, and (c) followed by everyone.  This would be simple to deal with.  Any amendment or rider which has nothing to do with the primary legislation AND / OR which does not have the support of the primary author of the legislation (not sponsors or co-sponsors, the primary author) can only be attached to the proposed legislation by a super-majority vote of two-thirds of the House in which it has been proposed in.  Any rider or amendment which does relate to the primary legislation AND has the support of the primary author can be attached if it gets a majority vote in the House in which it has been proposed.  Note: these votes would NOT be to approve the amendments or riders, only to allow them to be attached to the primary legislation before IT was voted on.  For those who want the President to have a line item veto authority, all that would have to be done here would be to say that he has the power and authority to approve or veto the results of such votes before they can be attached to the primary legislation (as provided for in Article I, Section 7, paragraph four of The Constitution).

7.)   Congress has made themselves exempt from abiding by the laws that they force on the rest of us.  This is one of the (many) reasons why it is so easy for Congress to hypocritically impose legislation on ‘we the people’ that is harsh or intolerable… because THEY don’t have to also live with the consequences of their decisions.  This blanket exemption needs to be removed and, any individual exemptions that they want to pass for themselves should be stated publicly, be required to undergo a full and open debate, require a two-thirds super-majority of BOTH Houses AND be subject to Presidential  vetoes for which it would take a three-fourths super majority of both Houses to override.

8.)  As in all things, politicians will take the paths of least resistance.  If their path of least resistance in legislation is to maintain the status quo by not voting for something, they will do that.  Conversely, if they have to actively vote for the status quo to maintain it, they will let it change.  As an example of what I mean by this, consider automatic Congressional pay raises.  Those raises will automatically take place unless Congress actively votes to stop them.  Thus, the path of least resistance is to maintain the status quo by doing nothing and, as a result, allow the raises to happen.  If the legislative process required on-going legislation to require active votes to keep it going, and the path of least resistance is to not vote for something (like the pay raises), they will not vote for them and they won’t happen.  The direction of how Congress votes for on-going legislation needs to be changed so that the path of least resistance is what benefits ‘we the people’ and not what benefits Congress or the government.

(This article will be continued in Part III [c], which will continue discussing Article I of The Constitution.)

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M.  Blavier

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

Tom Knapp Attacks The Fair Tax

In Congress, Economics, Republican, Taxation on March 29, 2008 at 7:08 pm

Tom Knapp (L) is running for United States House in Missouri’s 2nd district and he has already started to go after his Republican opponent, Todd Akin, for co-sponsoring Fair Tax legislation.

The following are concerns Tom Knapp has mentioned about the Fair Tax:

First and foremost, understand this: The “Fair Tax” is not a tax cut. Its proponents claim that it is “revenue neutral,” i.e. that Americans would pay just as much in taxes through the “Fair Tax” as they did through the taxes it replaced.

Secondly, the “Fair Tax” would put America on the dole. Every man, woman and child in the United States would receive a monthly check from the government. In theory, that check would represent an advance rebate (proponents call it a “prebate”) of part of the tax. In fact, eligibility for the check would be completely unconnected to actual payment of the tax.

Thirdly, while proponents claim that the “Fair Tax” would “eliminate the IRS,” exactly the opposite is true. A federal tax bureaucracy would still be required to administer the “prebate” program, and to police interstate tax fraud and “prebate” fraud … and fifty more bureaucracies would have to be created to assess and collect the tax at the state level.

Fourthly, proponents of the “Fair Tax” are deceptive in describing how large it would be. They characterize it as a 23% sales tax, when in fact it is a 30% tax.

He then goes on to give this opinion of what the Fair Tax could do to the American economy:

Finally, there’s a good chance that the “Fair Tax” would wreck the American economy in transition. The tax is assessed on new, but not used, goods. Care to guess what will happen to our nation’s automotive and homebuilding industries when the price of new cars and homes jumps by 30% and the price of used cars and homes doesn’t? Time and supply/demand will eventually bring the prices of used goods back into proportion with those of new goods … but until we get there, whole sectors of the economy will be, at best, on life support.

Click here to read Tom Knapp’s full post on the Fair Tax

Like Tom, I have many concerns about the Fair Tax. One concern is that those who have saved and invested their money are going to be taxed twice under a consumption tax. For example, if I have a Roth IRA I have already paid taxes on that money. When I spend the money I would once again have to pay taxes on that same money. In my opinion, we would greatly punish people who are being financially responsible.

While I would love to eliminate the IRS, I don’t think it is possible in the short term. I would prefer to cut spending, slowly cut taxes while at the same time paying down the national debt. The reason we cannot quickly cut taxes is that we have to cut spending first which is something the Bush administration failed to understand. The Bush administration and the Republican controlled Congress cut taxes, but refused to simultaneously cut spending and because of that we now have a huge deficit. Of course, many think a large surplus would be good, but that would result in less money going back into the economy which would not be good. When there is less money for the American people to spend there is less money to be invested in things such as new businesses which create employment. Instead, I prefer a small surplus each year to pay down the national debt. Until we cut spending and significantly lower taxes and the national debt I see no reason to give politicians any additional methods of collecting money.

Gravel announces Libertarian presidential run

In Congress, Global Warming, Guantanamo, Health, Iran, Libertarian Party-US, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Science, Taxation, Torture, US Government, Veterans, War on March 26, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Mike Gravel

A Personal Message from Mike

I wanted to update you on my latest plans before news gets out. Today, I am announcing my plan to join the Libertarian Party, because the Democratic Party no longer represents my vision for our great country. I wanted my supporters to get this news first, because you have been the ones who have kept my campaign alive since I first declared my candidacy on April 17, 2006.

The fact is, the Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR. It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism — all of which I find anathema to my views.

By and large, I have been repeatedly marginalized in both national debates and in media exposure by the Democratic leadership, which works in tandem with the corporate interests that control what we read and hear in the media.

I look forward to advancing my presidential candidacy within the Libertarian Party, which is considerably closer to my values, my foreign policy views and my domestic views.

Please take a moment to make your most generous donation to my presidential campaign today. $10, $20, $50 — whatever you feel you can afford.

I want to thank you all for your continued support.

_______________________________

So, what are Gravel’s views on the issues? Here are some issue statements from his website:

The War in Iraq Senator Gravel’s position on Iraq remains clear and consistent: to commence an immediate and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops that will have them home within 120 days. The sooner U.S. troops are withdrawn, the sooner we can pursue aggressive diplomacy to bring an end to the civil war that currently consumes Iraq. Senator Gravel seeks to work with neighboring countries to lead a collective effort to bring peace to Iraq.

One of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War, Senator Gravel was one of the first current or former elected officials to publicly oppose the planned invasion of Iraq in 2002. He appeared on MSNBC prior to the invasion insisting that intelligence showed that there were indeed no weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq posed no threat to the United States and that invading Iraq was against America’s national interests and would result in a disaster of epic proportions for both the United States and the Iraqi people.

Today, more than four years into the invasion, the death toll of U.S. troops has climbed over 3,300 with over 50,000 more permanently maimed, some having lost limbs, others their sight. Tens of thousands more are afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and urgently need psychological care. The Iraqi civilian death toll nears three-quarters of a million, and still there remains no end in sight to the bloodshed.

As President, Senator Gravel will call for a U.S. corporate withdrawal from Iraq and hand over reconstruction contracts to Iraqi businesses which will empower Iraqi nationals to reconstruct their own country.

The National Initiative for Democracy Mike fully supports the National Initiative for Democracy. The NI4D is a way to bring legislative power back to the people. In many states, citizens can put measures on the ballot and Mike believes as citizens of the United States we should all have that power.

Iran and Syria Senator Gravel opposes a military confrontation with Iran and Syria and advocates a diplomatic solution to the current situation.

Global Warming/Climate Change Senator Gravel believes that global climate change is a matter of national security and survivability of the plant. As President, he will act swiftly to reduce America’s carbon footprint in the world by initiating legislation to tax carbon at the source and cap carbon emissions. he is also committed to leading the fight against global deforestation, which today is second only to the energy sector as a source of greenhouse gases. However, any legislation will have little impact on the global environment if we do not work together with other global polluters. China, India, and under-developed nations all work together fighting climate change can only be effective if it is a collective global effort. As President, Senator Gravel will see that the U.S. launches and leads a massive global scientific effort, integrating the world’s scientific and engineering community, to end energy dependence on oil and integrate the world scientific community in this task.

Progressive Taxes – A fair Tax Senator Gravel’s Progressive Fair Tax proposal calls for eliminating the IRS and the income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax on new products and services. To compensate for the tax on necessities, such as food, lodging, transportation and clothing, there would be a “rebate” to reimburse taxpayers. This would be paid in a monthly check from the government to all citizens. The focus on taxing new goods would also help tackle the global climate change problem.

Healthcare Senator Gravel advocates a universal healthcare system that provides equal medical services to all citizens, paid for by a retail sales tax (a portion of the Progressive Fair tax). Citizens would pay nothing for health benefits.

Reproductive Rights Senator Mike Gravel supports a woman’s right to decide if and when to have children. He also supports a woman’s right to make the difficult decision about abortion without interference by government authorities. Comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education, including accurate information about contraception, can always be provided in order to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions. Parity in health insurance and access to specialized family health care services, including family planning education, would also benefit the health and welfare of infants and children, who need and deserve to be wanted and loved.

Immigration Senator Gravel favors protecting our borders and monitoring the flow of immigrants into our country. He also favors a guest worker program and setting up naturalization procedures that would fairly bring immigrants into legal status. America must address the root cause of illegal immigration. Any discussion of immigration must include NAFTA and the concept of “free trade.” The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a disaster for the working class of both the U.S. and Mexico and a boon to the international corporate interests. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that over 1 million U.S. jobs were lost as a result of NAFTA, a third of them manufacturing jobs. In Mexico, 1.3 million farm workers lost their jobs in the same period. This has led to a wave of immigrants looking for work in the U.S. Reforming unfair trade policies spawned by measures like NAFTA will stimulate job growth on both sides of the border.

LGBT Rights Senator Gravel supports same-sex marriage and opposes the Defense of Marriage Act. He supports expanding hate-crime legislation and opposes laws that allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or one’s gender identity or expression. Senator Gravel strongly opposes the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” legislation on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, as it restricts the rights of gay Americans. He opposes any state or national constitutional amendment that restricts the rights of the gay community.

Social Security Senator Gravel wants to put real money, rather than borrowed money, in the Social Security Trust Fund. He advocates investing it properly and identifying the interests of individual beneficiaries so they can know what their retirement fund is and leave surplus funds to heirs.

Education Access to public education is a bedrock American value. Why is it then that the United States ranks 49th in literacy and that an estimated 30% of our students don’t graduate from high school? Investing in education provides a pathway to a thriving national economy, to individual and family economic opportunity, and to the reduction of poverty. A successful education system requires the commitment of families, the community, and government. It’s time to re-order our national budget priorities in order to improve the American education system. Parent education and access to preschool programs such as Head Start need to be expanded so that children from low income families are equally ready to benefit from elementary school. Universal pre-kindergarten would also enhance readiness. Encouraging our students to be the best they can be will require flexibility from the federal and state governments, within school systems, and from groups with a stake in educational success. Flexibility may mean extended school days and summer learning opportunities or extended school years. It may mean online and broadcast courses to provide access to highly qualified teachers. It may mean charter schools to address the needs of local communities, smaller classes, enrichment programs for students at risk, and vocational options. One thing we know for sure: No Child Left Behind has left too many children behind. It needs to be reformed and adequately funded. It needs to acknowledge the need for a fuller curriculum that encourages critical thinking-not just math and science test-taking. A high school diploma should be the minimum goal for all students; without it, our children will be condemned to a substandard economic existence.

Veteran’s Affairs As President, Senator Gravel would ensure that veterans receive full funding for their most important needs, including healthcare that is indexed to the increasing cost of care and medicine. He would make sure that all soldiers receive a full medical diagnosis to assess what their individual needs would be. He would also make sure that the VA system is fully financed and has sufficient well-trained personnel to provide the finest care that is available. As the Senator says, “We can do no less and we will do much more.” Mike Gravel is the only military veteran in the democratic race.

The War on Drugs The War on Drugs has been a failure. It is time to end prohibition and start treating addiction as a public health problem. This has ravaged our inner cities, and we are losing an entire generation of men and women to prisons. We must regulate hard drugs for the purpose of treating addicts, which would emphasize rehabilitation and prevention over incarceration. We must decriminalize minor drug offenses and increase the availability and visibility of substance abuse treatment in our communities as well as in jails and prisons. The United States incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other industrialized nation in the world. Some 2.3 million Americans are now behind bars. This tragedy must end.

Net Neutrality Net Neutrality aims to keep the Internet free from large companies, which are trying to limit the number of web sites their customers can view and the speed at which they can view them. Senator Gravel guarantees a free and open Internet with unlimited access to all sites. He will do this by supporting legislation and regulation that keeps you in control of your Internet usage and promotes free speech.

Human Rights Senator Gravel is adamantly opposed to torture, indefinite detention, and the deprivation of lawyers/speedy trials. He opposes the Military Commissions Act, flagrant ignorance of the Geneva convention, and Guantanamo.

Make Congress read the laws it passes

In Activism, Congress, Corruption, Law, Politics on February 26, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Logo from DownsizeDC.org

I ran across this proposed law at DownsizeDC. I absolutely agree that no member of Congress should ever vote to pass any bill they haven’t actually read in its entirety, yet it happens all the time. Worse, far too often special interest items are inserted at the last minute. The truth is that Congress passes laws on a regular ongoing basis, which the majority of Congressmen have never even read.

The failure of our elected representatives to read bills before passage causes multiple problems, the most obvious of which is an out of control bureaucracy with laws either so complicated, or so poorly written, that even the courts can’t agree upon what they mean.

Since Congress has proven that they won’t do their elected jobs properly on a voluntary basis – by knowing exactly what laws they are passing, and what the effect and cost of that law will be – it should come as no surprise that some citizens are suggesting that laws be passed, effectively forcing them to do their jobs properly.

What follows is the draft of a proposed bill along those very lines.

A BILL

To require before final passage of any Bill the printing and full verbatim reading of the text of such Bill, and each and every amendment attached thereto, to each house of Congress called to order with a quorum physically assembled throughout, the entry of such a printing and reading in the journal of each house of Congress, and the verbatim publication of every such Bill, and each and every amendment thereto, on the official Internet web site of the Senate and the House of Representatives at least seven days before floor consideration and final passage of any Bill, and each and every amendment thereto by each house of Congress; and to provide for enforcement of the printing, reading, entry, publication, recording and affidavit requirements herein.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE

This Act may be cited as the “Read the Bills Act.”

SECTION 2. FINDINGS

(a) The United States Constitution vests all legislative powers granted therein to the United States Congress, members of both the Senate and House of which are elected by the people to whom each member is accountable to represent the people of the State and of the House District in the exercise of each member’s legislative powers.

(b) To the end that Congress be politically and legally accountable to the people, Article I, Section 4 of the United States Constitution requires each House of Congress to keep a journal of its proceedings and from time to time publish the same.

(c) To the end that no legislation be passed without effective representation of the people’s interest by the elected members of the Congress, Article I, Section 7 of the United States Constitution states that only those Bills “which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate,” and not vetoed by the President, “shall become” Laws.

(d) According to Section I of Thomas Jefferson’s 1812 Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate of the United States (“Jefferson’s Manual”), “nothing tended more to throw power into the hands of administration and those who acted with the majority … than a neglect of, or departure from, the rules of proceeding [which] operated as a check and control of the actions of the majority [and] a shelter and protection to the minority.”

(e) According to Sections XXII and XL of Jefferson’s Manual, it was the rule of the Senate that every bill receive three readings, two full readings by the Clerk of the Senate, and a third reading of the title of the bill only in that “every member of the Senate had a printed copy [of said bill] in his hand.”

(f) According to Sections XXIV, XXV, and XL of Jefferson’s Manual, it was the rule of the House of Representatives, following the parliamentary procedure of the English House of Commons, that every bill received two full readings by the Clerk of the House, and a reading of the whole contents of the bill verbatim by the Speaker of the House before the House voted on each bill.

(g) Under current Senate rules, the Senate has departed from its original practice of a full first and second reading of each bill, and of ensuring that each Senator has a printed or other verbatim copy of each bill before passage thereof, having by Rule XIV limited each reading of a bill to the reading of the bill’s title only, unless the Senate in any case shall otherwise order.

(h) Under current House rules, the House of Representatives has by Rule XVI (8) and Rule XVIII (5) embraced its original practice of full first and second readings of each bill, but has regularly departed from this practice by unanimous consent of the House, and has dispensed altogether its original practice of a verbatim third reading of each bill before passage, limiting such third reading to the reading of the title only, including the reading of the title only even when members of the House have no printed or other verbatim copy of a bill before passage.

(i) Although Section 106, Title 1, United States Code, requires a bill to be made available in written form to each member of Congress before final passage Congress has by statute conferred upon itself the power, during the last six days of a session of Congress, by concurrent resolution, to vote for passage of a bill that is not in form at the time of final passage.

(j) As a direct consequence of the Senate and the House of Representatives departure from the salutary practice of full, verbatim readings of each bill before final passage, and further, as a direct consequence of Congress, by concurrent resolution, having permitted certain appropriation and budget bills to be enacted into law without such bills being printed and presented to Congress in written form prior to final passage, Congress has: (a) imposed upon the American people excessively long bills, largely written by an unelected bureaucracy, resulting in generally incomprehensible, cumbersome, oppressive and burdensome laws, containing hidden provisions for special interests; (b) deprived the American people and their elected Senators and Representatives of a full and fair opportunity to examine the text of said bills, and all amendments thereto, prior to passage; (c) undermined the confidence of the American people by its failure to give adequate notice to the people before a vote is taken on said bills and their amendments in the bills; and (d) has called into question the integrity and reliability of the legislative processes in both houses of Congress by its failure to ensure that each member of the Senate and each member of the House has, prior to passage, either listened attentively to the reading of the full text of each bill, and its amendments, or has personally read the text thereof.

SECTION 3. READ THE BILLS BEFORE PASSAGE

(a) Chapter 2 of Title 1, United States Code, shall be amended by inserting at the end of the first sentence of Section 106, the following: “provided however, that no bill — including, but not limited to, any bill produced by conference between the two houses of Congress and any bill or resolution extending, modifying, or otherwise affecting the expiration date of a bill previously passed and enacted into law by Congress — shall pass either house of Congress: (a) without the full text of said bill, and the full text of each and every amendment thereto and — if the bill or resolution extends, modifies, or in any way affects the expiration date of a bill previously passed and enacted into law — without the full text of such bill or resolution and the full text of the bill previously passed and enacted into law having first been individually read verbatim by the Clerk of each house to the body of each house called to order and physically assembled with a quorum present throughout the time of the full textual reading of said bill, and of the full text of any bill previously passed and enacted into law, if any, that is the subject of a bill or resolution extending, modifying or in any way affecting the expiration date of such previously passed bill enacted into law; and (b) without the full text of said bill, and the full text of each and every amendment thereto, and the full text of the previously passed bill and enacted into law, if any, having been published verbatim on the official Internet web site of each house at least seven days prior to a final vote thereon in each house, together with an official notice of the date and time on which the vote on the final version of said bill and its amendments will take place.”

(b) Chapter 2, Title 1, United States Code, shall be further amended by striking the last sentence of Section 106, and substituting therefor: “With respect to each bill and each and every amendment thereto, and each bill previously passed and enacted into law, the expiration date having been extended, modified or in any way changed by a bill or resolution, each house of Congress shall cause to be recorded in its journal of proceedings: (a) that the reading, printing, and publishing requirements of this section have been met; and (b) the names of those members of the Senate and of the House present during the reading of each bill and each and every amendment thereto. Each member of the Senate and each member of the House shall execute a sworn affidavit, such affidavit being executed under penalty of perjury as provided in Section 1621, Title 18, United States Code, that the member either was present throughout the entire reading of each bill, each and every amendment thereto, and listened attentively to such reading, or, prior to any vote on passage of the bill, and each and every amendment thereto, personally read attentively each bill, and each and every amendment thereto, in their entirety. Neither house of Congress, nor Congress jointly — by concurrent resolution, or by unanimous consent, or by any other order, resolution, vote, or other means — may dispense with, or otherwise waive or modify, the printing, reading, entry, publishing, recording, or affidavit requirements set forth herein.”

(c) Chapter 2, Title 1, United States Code, shall be further amended by renumbering Sections 106a and 106b to 106b and 106c respectively and adding a new Section 106a as follows: “Enforcement Clause. No bill shall become law, nor enforced or applied as law, without Congress having complied fully with the printing, reading, entry, publishing, recording, and affidavit requirements of Section 106, Title 2, United States Code and any person against whom such a bill is enforced or applied may invoke such noncompliance as a complete defense to any action, criminal or civil, brought against him. Any person aggrieved by the enforcement of, or attempt or threat of enforcement of, a bill passed without having complied with the printing, reading, entry, publishing, recording, and affidavit requirements of Section 106, Title 2, United States Code, and any member of Congress aggrieved by the failure of the house of which he or she is a member to comply with the requirements of Section 106, and any person individually aggrieved by the failure of the elected Senator of the State in which the aggrieved person resides, or elected member of the House of the District in which the aggrieved person resides, to fulfill that Senator’s or House member’s obligations under Section 106, shall, regardless of the amount in controversy, have a cause of action under Sections 2201 and 2202, Title 28, United States Code and Rules 57 and 65, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, against the United States to seek appropriate relief, including an injunction against enforcement of any law, the passage of which did not conform to the requirements of Section 106.”

SECTION 4. SEVERABILITY CLAUSE

If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid for any reason in any court of competent jurisdiction, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or any other application of this Act which can be given effect without the invalid provison or application, and for this purpose the provisions of this Act are declared severable.

If you agree with the above, and want your Congressmen to become involved, you can locate and contact your Congressmen through the US House of Representatives website and the United States Senate website

Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan