July 3, 2023 at 10:30 am #97Jonathan BuhacoffKeymaster
The process of passing laws should start with a vote on the intent of the proposed law.
If the intent vote doesn’t pass, the waste of a significant effort to write a detailed law that won’t pass can be avoided. If the intent vote passes, then legislators can proceed to negotiate and write the details of the law in accordance with the approved intent.
Without an intent vote, it’s not clear if a failure to pass a law or referendum is due to a lack of support for the intent of the law or a lack of support for the proposed implementation.
If a legislature has two bodies, such as the House of Representatives and the Senate in the United States, only one of them should be responsible for introducing new legislation. If legislation can start in either body, then it’s possible for two similar laws to be proposed in the two bodies and if both are approved by vote then they have to be reconciled — and in the United States, this happens without another vote on the final draft by both bodies, which means that unscrupulous editors can insert or remove things that wouldn’t have passed a vote.
When legislators vote on a law and when citizens vote on a referendum, they vote on it as it is written. They might agree with some of it but strongly disagree with some implementation detail and vote against it for that reason. Voting on the intent first means that if a subsequent vote on the implementation fails it’s because people don’t want that implementation, and lawmakers should try again. Alternatively, voters can be presented with a a set of proposed implementations to select a winner, the way people vote for candidates in an election. This is a useful technique when lawmakers cannot come an agreement on an implementation — they let the voters decide (either the people in a referendum, or the full body of legislators).
When a dispute comes before a judge, the judge must ascertain the facts and determine how the law applies to the circumstances in question. Sometimes the law isn’t clear and judges must interpret the law. When there is an intent preceding the implementation, it provides judges with context when there is ambiguity in the implementation details, so judges can rule in alignment with the intent of the law.
Laws should be made with the fewest “exceptional” cases possible. An exception is really a higher priority rule. It’s better to write it that way instead of writing it as an exception.
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