NOTE: You can read the full text of the "Read the Bills Act" here, in PDF format.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse for citizens. Neither should it be in Congress.
With great power comes great responsibility. The obligations imposed on public servants must always be greater than those imposed on citizens. This is why we need DownsizeDC.org's "Read the Bills Act" (RTBA).
Representatives have a fiduciary responsibility to read every word of every law they seek to impose on us. RTBA requires that . . .
Any member of Congress who wants to vote YES on a bill must sign an affidavit swearing that he or she has...
It will always be easy for every member of Congress to hear a bill read because RTBA requires a full reading before a quorum of each chamber of Congress. This one simple requirement will change how Congress operates. As it stands now, too many bills . . .
The quorum reading requirement will create a huge incentive to make bills shorter, clearer, and more focused, so that Congress can better endure the fatigue of hearing them read! It will make Congress . . .
RTBA also requires that every amendment to present law must quote the existing law to be amended, and the new section as amended. It will no longer suffice to have something like the following . . .
"Section 415 (21 U.S.C. 350d) is amended in subsection (a)(2), by inserting after the first sentence the following: . . ."
This is yet another feature of RTBA that will make things easier for both Congress and the public.
RTBA also imposes waiting periods . . .
These provisions will end the practice of legislating by surprise, and give citizens the same time for reading and deliberating that Congress should invest.
Finally, RTBA has mechanisms to compel compliance. We'll note two here . . .
First, RTBA is a law, NOT a mere rule. The evidence is overwhelming that Congress doesn’t obey its own rules. Enforceable laws are needed instead. This problem of enforcement is also why RTBA permits no exceptions for "emergencies." "Emergency" has become an accounting term on Capitol Hill — a way to work outside the constraints of current budget law.
Second, Congressional rules can't be enforced by the courts. But properly written laws can be. That's why RTBA contains the following enforcement mechanism . . .
Any citizen, charged with a crime, can successfully defend him or herself, if they can present evidence demonstrating that the law they are accused of violating was passed in violation of RTBA. The judge can then dismiss the case, or the jury can render a verdict of innocence. No mere rule can be enforced in this way. Only a law can give citizens this kind of protection.
In conclusion . . .
If you must be responsible for obeying and funding every word of every law Congress enacts, then every member of Congress must be responsible for reading every word of every bill before they vote to enact it.
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Use the form at right to send your elected representatives a letter about this issue. It's easy!
We provide the first few words of the letter so that Congressional offices will see the most important point right at the start, and so that no one can hijack our system for another purpose. Here's the part we provide . . .