Thursday, June 25, 2009

LD Cap and Trade and related thoughts....

Something like 2000 or more new bills are submitted by various members of the Maine legislature in each two year session. Virtually every one of them either costs more money, takes away a freedom, and/or panders to some special interest. New legislators are told they need to submit bills if they want to "make a name for themselves.

I have an idea: you want to make a name for yourself? Rob a bank or two. Otherwise, when you go to Augusta, why don't you just concentrate on seeing that all the existing laws and organizations run well and efficiently?

The reality is that 1000+ proposed new laws every year immediately bogs the system down, creates lots of unnecessary workload, and turns being in the legislature into pure drudgery a good deal of the time. Each bill attracts and keeps employed a variety of lobbyists and non-profit organizations, further adding to the scope and pervasiveness of government.

Can anyone look around and say that things are a lot better in Maine than they used to be because we consider 1000 possible new laws every year? I don't think so.

So I have an idea. The term "cap and trade" is popular right now. I propose that we cap the number of bills that can be submitted each two year session at 3 per legislator, meaning less than 600 total for the entire 2 year period. A legislator can trade their allotment away if they wish, or try to acquire someone else's.

What it boils down to is this: if they can't figure out how to limit their offerings to those that really, really matter, they shouldn't be leading us, or "serving" us, as they like to think of it. Best I can tell, the only bills absolutely required every two year session are the budget bills; a spending plan MUST be enacted to fund state operations. Everything else is optional

We've had enough "do something, do anything" bills. This is not a good reason to curtail liberty or spend public resources. And we've had enough "feel good" bills as well. The latter add a new law on top of the tens or hundreds of existing laws that address the subject, since it's ever so much more fun to bask in the public spotlight because of a new law, rathdoes nothier than tend to the enforcement of those already in place, which offers little or no recognition.

The classic case is gun legislation. Something tragic happens, and no one makes an effort to see whether the laws that were already in place have been enforced as required; that draws no reporters, or TV cameras, or lobbyists. Far more politic it is to propose something new, even if superfluous, or worse, unenforceable, and to have your name as the author and/or sponsor. Now THAT you can use back home when the next campaign rolls around. "Look at me... I drafted and sponsored the I'm a champion of the public bill."

The simple truth is that there are no photo ops for enforcing existing bills or filling potholes in roads that have been left to fall apart. But build a new bridge, or a new ramp, or a new something else, and we have ribbon cuttings, ceremonies, etc. All designed to promote the politician, not the "general welfare."

Here's another idea: require any vote in support of a bill or ordnance to include an affidavit that the official has read the document in question. No more "I didn't know it included that." They may not have actually read it...but they won't have the all-purpose dodge any more, will they?

And when it comes to local things like town ordnances that are just "being cleaned up," there should be an "is/was" version to make it clear what the changes are. I've seen to many aimless discussions as town officials try to grasp what is before them, and town staff struggles to explain it to them.


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