First, I’d like to say hallelujah to Chicago’s repeal of their idiotic foie gras ban. But if you read the news carefully, you would have picked up on something disturbing and very familiar- that many of the elected officials who originally voted in the ban did not even know that the ban was part of the package they were voting on. That should sound familiar because it is exactly the same sort of thing that allowed the totally B.S. Internet Gambling law to get passed back in 2006, attached to the Port Security Act. Not surprisingly, that legislation is in the process of getting overturned as well, and it can’t come too soon.
So here you have two examples, one at the municipal government level and the other federal, both of which show there is something heinously wrong with how legislation gets passed in this country. I realize that we elect officials and allow them to vote on bills on our behalf, and sometimes they will vote against what we may agree with, and really, I’m fine with that. But what is not ok, is that these officials can be allowed to, or even snookered into, voting on things they have no clue about. The under-the-radar bundling of unrelated legislation into a single bill is something that many others have harped on, so there’s no need for me to beat that particular dead horse. But what I think is also happening, which is equally unacceptable, is that when these guys do in fact know what bill they’re voting on, they have little to no real understanding of the issues on both sides of the aisle. How many of these alderman in Chicago, the ones who knew they were voting on a foie gras ban, really knew any of the arguments for or against the ban? How many do you think know, even today, what gavage is, much less the facts surrounding it? This kind of ignorant voting should simply not be allowed. And you know what? I don’t think it would be that difficult to fix the system.
Considering the vast amounts of wasted money in government at all levels, why not spend some money where it would make a real difference in the legislative process? I propose that every bill up for vote be accompanied by a mandatory test designed to prove that the legislator has at least a minimum required level of understanding of the major arguments for and against the bill. This should be handled by an independent group that does nothing other than researching each issue, and creating and administering the tests. I’m agnostic as to whether this is done by an independent government agency or farmed out to the private sector. But the main thing is that passing the test would be mandatory before being allowed to participate in the vote. Yes it would cost money to do this, but if this forces legislators to raise their level of understanding on the issues at hand, wouldn’t it be worth the expense? Wouldn’t it raise the level of public confidence, not only in our elected officials, but in the system itself? What is that worth? In addition, if it helps prevent the passing of idiotic laws that will only waste more government resources during the inevitable repeal process, there’s some cost savings realized there as well.
Since some legislators will inevitably fail the occasional test but should still be granted their right to vote, we would allow them to re-test as many times as it takes to pass. However, their test scores would be part of the public record. That gives the legislators a big incentive to bone up on their understanding of the issues going into the process or else suffer the ignominy of a testing history that looks more like a third grade report card. If they want a chance at getting re-elected they’d better have a decent looking testing record (except of course if they’re in D.C. because apparently they’ll re-elect anyone down there, hahaha).
So there you have it; my proposal for legislative reform. Now how can we make this happen? Oh, right, we need to get it passed as a bill. *sigh*