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Read the Bill Act

From the Gang of 8, to Obamacare, to the Omnibus spending bill, Americans are fed up with lengthy bills rammed quickly through Congress.

The 2,000 page, $1.1 trillion Omnibus signed into law before Christmas fully funds Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, illegal executive amnesty, EPA overreach and the Syrian refugee program among other horrible organizations and programs. In response, I have introduced legislation to hit the brakes on runaway legislation: the Read the Bill Act.  At a minimum, our constituents expect Members of Congress to read and understand legislation before taking a vote. The public also needs sufficient time to in order to communicate with their representatives.

The justifiable backlash from conservatives against the Omnibus has reinvigorated calls for House GOP leadership to restore “regular order” to funding the government: twelve spending bills brought forward one-by-one under open-amendment rules. Regular order is a first step toward restoring legislative sanity, but real process reform requires a “safety valve” which prevents leadership from jamming through massive bills at the last minute.

Currently, the House operates under the so-called “Three Day Rule.” This rule supposedly prevents a bill from being brought to the floor and voted on in the same day.

The public mistakenly thinks the Three Day Rule gives Members a minimum of 72 hours to review bills. House Leadership, however, often “complies” by introducing controversial legislation late Tuesday night and holding votes Thursday morning. Even so, sometimes Leadership overrides the fake Three Day Rule by passing a so-called “Martial Law” rule to allow same-day consideration of any bill. Only in Washington D.C. can politicians write a new rule to override another rule which they (temporarily) don’t want to follow.

We saw the fake Three Day Rule in operation with the Omnibus.

House Leadership introduced the Omnibus at 2:00 AM on Wednesday, December 16 and we voted that Friday at 10:00 AM. In other words, we had only 56 hours to review 2,000 pages of legislation. My bill would stop this madness first by requiring 24 hours review time for every 100 pages of legislative text with a guaranteed minimum of 72 hours for every bill.

It also clarifies that “hours” means “working” hours so Leadership can’t run the clock during weekends and days when Congress is out of session. The longer the bill, the more time Members and the public would have to understand what’s in it. These time requirements would have forced House Leadership to wait a calendar month between dropping the 2,000 page Omnibus and scheduling the final passage vote. I have no doubt the Omnibus would have died if the public had a full week to rally against it, let alone 30 days.

To ensure Leadership’s compliance, the Read the Bill Act includes an enforcement procedure which would invalidate any law passed using fast-track procedures. It creates a cause of action for Members – or even taxpayers – to sue and make sure such laws have no force or effect.

Reading 100 pages a day doesn’t seem like much.

However, actually understanding legislative text is equivalent to deciphering hieroglyphics. It’s not just the length of bills, but also their sheer complexity – riddled with mind-numbing jargon, legalese, and bureaucratic gobbledygook – which keeps everybody in the dark.

For example, two seemingly innocuous short provisions in the Omnibus (Sections 601 and 602) give a partial bailout for Puerto Rico. Of course, these two sections don’t say: “U.S. mainland taxpayers shall provide an $865 million bailout to Puerto Rico.” Instead, the Omnibus legislative text amends eight paragraphs, subparagraphs, clauses and sub-clauses in a completely different bill – the (amended) Social Security Act of 1935 – and three other obscure provisions in the 2009 Obama stimulus bill to achieve the same purpose.

Analyzing half-page provisions shouldn’t take hours and a law degree. We don’t just need more time; we need bills that are readable. Members cannot do their jobs without readable legislation, nor can our constituents hold us accountable.

The Read the Bill Act requires that all bills include a comparative print which shows changes made to all other laws.  Comparative prints are similar to the “track changes” functions used in everyday word processing programs. The House is already moving toward mandating more readable legislation. In fact, new House Rules already require comparative print appendices, but only for bills passed out of committees. The Read the Bill Act expands the existing readable legislation requirement to all legislation considered on the floor – even 2,000 page bills drafted in secret with zero committee involvement.

I encourage my House colleagues to join with me to start a better process which would, in turn, lead to better legislation: short, readable, and with plenty of time to digest it.

Read the full bill text here.

  Angry conservative lawmakers are howling about the massive spending bill signed into law Friday – slamming the party’s leadership for pushing through a “bad deal” that’ll only anger voters “fed up with the Washington cartel.”

  While President Barack Obama and congressional leaders – including newly minted House Speaker Paul Ryan – defended the bipartisan deal hiking spending across government and extending a host of special interest tax breaks, critics sounded a starkly different note.

“I think this omnibus was a betrayal of the men and women who elected us,” Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday.

“I think this omnibus was a betrayal of the men and women who elected us. It was Republican leadership playing Santa Claus to the lobbyists … and the special interests, and it’s why people are fed up with the Washington cartel.”

“I think this omnibus was a betrayal of the men and women who elected us,” – Ted Cruz

Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions echoed Cruz’s portrayal of the deal as a “betrayal” of the trust conservative voters put in GOP leaders last year, adding that Congress should have at the very least reigned in Obama’s refugee resettlement plan.

“There is a reason that GOP voters are in open rebellion,” Sessions told The Washington Times.

Louisiana GOP Rep. John Fleming, in a radio interview prior to his “no” vote on the deal,
derided the legislation as “a laundry list of things that are not on it… and things that shouldn’t be in it,” calling it a “bad deal.”

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Paul arrives in NH with good news and bad news…

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul came directly to New Hampshire from Capitol Hill on Friday with good news and bad news.

“The good news is your government is open,” the Republican presidential candidate told members of the Greater Derry-Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

“The bad news is your government is open.”

Examples of the Abuse of Your Taxpayer Dollar

Think about the means by which a business prepares its budget. Each business unit submits its operational plans and budget for the next year to management. Unit leaders must document and defend their rationale for each request. The budget is approved through due process which balances the needs of each business unit. Following approval, the business unit undergoes monthly or quarterly budget reviews to track performance. As the year comes to an end, this purview provides a foremost tool for gauging the performance of unit managers…

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EX-IM Bank Reauthorization: Crony Capitalism or National Security?

Several years ago Ron Paul warned us of this matter (link via my good friend J Bradley Jansen and you can see his remarks here: Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights » Rep. Ron Paul’s Statement on H.R. 1370 Reauthorizing the Export Import Bank (1997). In this report, Ron Paul says, “H.R. 1370, reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, should be rejected for several reasons. The claim to constitutionality is dubious. The Bank rewards special interest groups with political favors. Reallocating money from the job-producing, productive sectors of the economy to the less efficient sectors distorts credit allocation. Reauthorization of the Bank is both bad economics and bad politics.”

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Editorial | Inching Toward a Commercial Weather Policy

jimbridenstine 1000x

Government policymaking in an ideal world is proactive, but more often than not it is reactive or, as in the case of companies seeking to commercialize weather data collected via satellite, a muddle of the two.

Thanks in part to prodding from Congress, in particular Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released a draft Commercial Space Policy that lays out some of the terms and conditions under which it will buy data from these companies.

With one of the aspiring commercial weather data providers, San Francisco-based Spire, on the cusp of launching sizable numbers of cubesats able to derive weather information by measuring atmospheric distortion of GPS signals, the NOAA policy document comes not a moment too soon.

Original Article on

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The Choir Needs to Get out of the Loft and Wrangle Some Gorillas

Some have said that I’m preaching to the choir. I know that, BUT – The choir has got to get out of the loft and deal with the gigantic “gorillas” in the middle of the sanctuary.

Special thanks to Rex Morache for both the art and the composite of these thoughts.  Rex is in Texas now but we met first while he was in California.  He is an extremely talented graphic artist and you can see some of his work online via flickr here and many of the book covers via Scribd here.

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The Senate Transparancy Conundrum

Jason Murphey HD31Regular readers of the state’s appropriations bill were greeted by something new as they opened this year’s version of the venerable legislation.

Historically, the bill has contained a section-by-section narrative detailing the assignment, or transfer, of dollars to the many government agencies and programs. This document, often confused with the state budget, assigns about 7 billion of the approximate 17.5 billion spent by state government.

In reality, only about 30% of state government spend goes through the legislative process. What about the other 10 billion of spend?

Source post HD31 here.

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It Feels Like We Are Working for a Startup

I knew the concern was legitimate, but believed the benefit from doing the right thing would outweigh the downside — as it always does.The detractors to Oklahoma’s state government information technology unification may have been willing to concede that a private business would never silo itself into many different IT departments as the state had done; and, that the consultant’s report sho…

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