Sunday, July 25, 2010

Regulate Congress

Akafred used to be active in the lobbying group the Business and Industry Association of NH. Lat Friday, he described a frustration he had with the legislative process in NH, where some people want to get their name on bills and similar legislation is introduced in successive sessions of the legislature. The follow-up legislation is often brought forward before we've had a chance to see how the last legislation worked. People want to strengthen some provision, or add in another sector that is being regulated, or "take the next step" in getting to their ultimate goal of remaking part of our culture in the direction of their personal vision.

Needless to say, this is often a lot of wasted effort.

In my line of work, we keep a chart on each patient, and keep that chart for years in archives, showing what we have done and how well it worked. We also enter patient information into several databases, to other government agencies who are monitoring the services provided. There are regulations that require us to report to various entities, in clearly understandable form, what we have done. We complain about it of course, because it takes time away from actually doing the work we are reporting about. But there is some sense in it. It's called accountability, and it's better to have it than not, inefficient as it is.

Thirdly, if we are proposing a course of treatment for a patient, we are required to give them certain information, especially if it is a medication. Notably, we have to provide it in language and terms they can understand, so they can make an informed decision.

So why not require the same thing of Congress? For every piece of proposed legislation, Congress should be required to inform us, in language we can understand, what the last ten years of legislation on the subject have been, how well each has worked, and what the side effects were. Like every other industry in America, Congress should be required to report to the citizenry in various ways.

I am not being cute here. Yes, Congress "reports" to us in one important way, in that the legislation is written down for anyone who wants to go and look it up. So too has the research on all medication always been available to anyone, if they wanted to subscribe to medical journals or spend hours in the library. So what? That is a form that isn't very user-friendly, and has been deemed by government regulation to be inadequate for informing patients.

It sounds like a lot of extra work, and growth of government. But if they have to spend more time creating reports to the US citizenry, in as many languages as they like, exactly what they are doing and what the potential side effects are, I call that money well spent. It might also give them a picture of what it's like for the rest of us doing our jobs, having to fill out forms and giving reports where none of the checked boxes quite fits your words, and you worry that you will be giving a "wrong" anser if you don't put it in the form they're looking for.

HB1775: Legislation to require all manufacturers of baseball hats to report where each of the component parts come from, where it was assembled, possible allergens, certification that no copyright infringement is involved, and a tax on the sale of each cap, proceeds to go to Little League development in each of the countries involved in manufacture.

HB1776: Legislation requiring all manufacturers of laws to report what lobbying groups were involved in design and manufacturer, safety reports on all earlier versions of the legislation, possible negative effects on various sectors of the economy, with a tax on each congressional office, proceeds to go to civics education in every American 8th grade. The report must be in understandable language, so that citizens can give informed consent for the procedure.

If the minority party, which didn't vote for the previous legislation, is required to submit its report as well, an element of competition is introduced. If one party tries to hide what was in previous legislation or misrepresent what the effect was, the minority has an opportunity to do its own evaluation. Let's see who makes their report easiest to understand with that in place, eh? If they issue thousand-page reports obscuring details and spinning everything, sue the bastards until they issue reports at an 8th-grade reading level.

This will likely require a constitutional amendment, frankly. The IRS has provided unclear and complicated explanations for years but can't be stopped. Yet. If Congress had to produce a 20-page pamphlet for every piece of legislation it proposed, explaining how the last things they did worked and what the possible downsides of this new idea is, it would take time away from them dreaming up other things they want to fix about the stuff that we do.


Donna B. said...

I really like this idea. A lot.

jaed said...

So do I.

(Of course, there is one problem: it has to be passed by Congress. And I suspect Congress would no more pass such a thing that it would pass my favorite idea for keeping Congress in check, which involves shooting [or when I'm feeling less bloodthirsty about Congress, exiling from office] one Congresscritter per session. Selected by popular nationwide vote. The thing I like about this one is that it would make grandstanding risky, since better-known Congresscritters are more likely to "win" such an election than quieter sorts.)

How would one induce Congress to pass such a bill?

Texan99 said...

Nothing wrong with regulating Congress. You could say that's an important function of the Constitution.