Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Proposed List Of Amendments To The Constitution

So here are a list of amendments that I think should be made.

First my sunset law idea.  To review, every law (federal, state, and local) would automatically "sunset", or become null and void, if they weren't renewed occasionally.  The renewal vote would be the same as the vote need to initially pass the law (so normal 50% in two houses, in most cases).  The time period needed would be 5 years for any first renewal, that would allow almost all of government to go through an election, and would prevent panic laws from having a huge first time limit.  After that the periods would be based on the majority the law passed with.  Something like (P - 50) / 2 = T (rounded up to nearest integer), where P is the percentage of whichever house was lower, and T is the time in years before the next renewal.  If the House passed a law with 55%, and the Senate with 60% the time would be (55 - 50) / 2 = 2.5, rounded to 3 years.  With 100% in both houses the maximum would be 25 years.  All existing laws would start with 10 years from the date of ratification.  I'd be willing to change the details of the time limits, however I feel 5 years for all first time renewal periods and a maximum of 25 years are key.  Also laws could only be renewed in the year they came up for renewal (except the existing laws could be renewed anytime during the 10 year period).

Next I would repeal the 17th Amendment, which changes the method of electing the Senate.  It changed from being elected by the states to by the people.  This wouldn't be popular, because people like the idea of direct democracy, despite not actually caring enough to use the form of democracy they have.  However, I am a supporter of state's rights and feel that the Senate represents the states, while the House of Representatives represents the people.

A major problem is unconstitutional laws.  I think this stems from the fact that there is no penalty for passing unconstitutional laws, and that the only way for the laws to be removed is for someone to be arrested under them and appeal it up to the Supreme Court.  Thus two amendments should address this.

First make it easier for unconstitutional laws to be repealed.  I think there should be a number of different ways to do this.  First allow states to declare a law unconstitutional.  Next would be the creation of some body whose job it was to verify that laws were in fact constitutional before they came into force.  Some European countries have bodies like this.  The first choice may be the Supreme Court, however I think it is best to create a new body whose sole purpose is to review laws for constitutionality.  It would probably be quite similar to the Supreme Court in make up and specifics.

Next there should be some penalty for representatives that pass unconstitutional laws.  This one is tricky though; it would be easy to abuse for political reasons.  The problem I want to avoid would be the above body declaring laws they don't like unconstitutional just to hurt whoever passed them.  There's a few ways to avoid this.  First you could specify that the punishment would be proportional to how unconstitutional the law was.  You could gauge this by the majority with which whatever body ruled the law unconstitutional did so.  So if 26 states ruled a law unconstitutional then there would be little to no penalty.  On the other hand if 40 of them found it unconstitutional there could be a big penalty.  The other method would be basing the penalty on how many times that person had passed something unconstitutional.  If someone passed laws that were often found unconstitutional there would be a more severe penalty than if it had been one of the first times it happened.

As for the actual penalty that would probably depend on the factors I just mentioned.  Anything from a small fine, to barring them from public office, to jail time could be justified depending on the the severity.

The next one shouldn't even have to be put into the constitution, but I guess it does have to be.  Representatives should have to actually read laws before they can vote on them.  It boggles my mind that they openly admit to not reading laws they've passed, insane.  Include a mandatory waiting period between a bill being introduced, and it being voted on.  Perhaps 5 days + 1 day for every 50 pages.  I guess you'd have to define a page as a number of characters or words.  Perhaps this would help keep bills less than 1000 pages, but realistically it would just lead to them using short words, or combing words or something else.

Also as soon as the bill is introduced it should have to be published online and some other offline ways.  Going along with this every single vote should have to be published.  As it stands votes are only recorded if 1/5 request it.  With technology and the money Congress has there is no reason not to just record every single vote.  Even totally trivial things, there is really no downside to just putting them all on some public searchable website.

Another problem is that bills are often bundled together with totally unrelated bills in order to get them passed.  For example a bill would be introduced which outlawed eating babies, bundled onto this bill would be some unrelated nonsense like creating a new Federal agency whose job it is to regulate waffles.  If a representative voted against this people would  accurately claim he voted against a bill that outlawed baby eating.  Honestly though I'm not sure of how to prevent this.  You can simply say that bills must have one subject and bar unrelated bills from being combined.  However, it would be too easy to say anything is somehow related.

Another thing should be that Federal laws should have to specify what specific part of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to do whatever the law is doing.  Many people don't realize the Constitution isn't a list of rights citizens have.  Rather it is a list of powers the US government has.  If the Constitution doesn't grant the US a power then it doesn't have it.

Going hand in hand with that is clarifying the "general welfare" and "commerce clause".  Article I Section 8 of the Constitution conveniently lists the only powers Congress has.  The list is quite limited in powers, as was the point.  However, two loopholes have been exploited to give Congress practically unlimited power.  The first line reads "The Congress shall have Power To ... provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;"  Congress has argued that many things it does falls under the umbrella of "general welfare".  They are right that "general welfare" can justify almost anything.  That is exactly why it isn't actually granting any power.  Why would they even bother listing the rest of the powers if "general welfare" meant Congress could basically do anything it wanted?  Note also that right before welfare, it mentions defense.  However in the actual list of powers Congress has the power:
"To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;"
See how the Constitution still specifically gave Congress the power to provide a military, despite having previously mentioned defense?  Here is the entire first clause:
"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;"
Note that it is actually saying that Congress can collect taxes to provide defense and general welfare.  That is the reason they are allowed to collect taxes.  It isn't saying Congress can do anything as long as it is for the "general welfare"

The second loophole though, is the one most often abused:
"The Congress shall have Power To ... regulate Commerce ... among the several States"
Congress can regulate commerce between the states, seems simple enough.  However almost everything Congress does it claims it has the power to do so because of this clause.  Here is a good review of this I wrote.  To sum it up, even if something is produced entirely within a state, never crosses a state line, and is used for personal use Congress still claims to have authority over it.

1 comment:

  1. Did you proofread this? You new English class is really paying dividends in your spelling and grammar.