After every tragedy, legislation gets rushed through that’s typically just a bunch of stuff that various folks had long wanted all along, but couldn’t pass before. Then it’s hustled through as a “solution” to the tragedy, even though close inspection usually reveals that the changes wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy, and don’t even have much to do with it.
The goal, thus, is to prevent close inspection through a combination of heavy-handed legislative techniques and bullying rhetoric: If you don’t want to pass our bill without reading it, you must hate the children.
Over the years, we’ve gotten a lot of lousy legislation this way — the Patriot Act, for example, about which I wrote a column something like this one back in 2001. We’ve gotten it because politicians like to manipulate voters and avoid scrutiny.
But why let them?
I’d like to propose a “waiting period” for legislation. No bill should be voted on without hearings, debate and a final text that’s available online for at least a week. (A month would be better. How many bills really couldn’t wait a month?)
And if the bill is advertised as addressing a “tragedy” or named after a dead child, this period should double.
After all, people want waiting periods for guns. Yet, statistically, the percentage of guns involved in crimes is much lower than the percentage of politicians involved in crimes.
Seriously, legislation is supposed to be a deliberative process. When they don’t want to deliberate, it’s because they’re hiding something. And they’re hiding it because they don’t want you to know about it.
I’d also add another provision: Anytime a “tragedy” bill has to be amended because slipshod legislating led to flaws, the bill to fix it must list the names of those who voted for the original, in bold type, at the beginning under the heading “IDIOTS WHO DIDN’T READ THE BILL OR THINK ABOUT IT BEFORE VOTING.”