Front Page Forums Government Single-issue bills

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    The legislature should consider one bill at a time to ensure that laws are enacted or not based on their merit and popular support, and not based on underhanded maneuvering and deal-making.

    This is difficult to enforce in practice, because a person can claim something is related when it isn’t. For example, a bill might be proposed for funding the national park service, and someone insists on amending it to also reduce the sales tax on a particular category of products whose leading manufacturers by market share happen to be located in the home state of that representative. These two issues are clearly unrelated but that wouldn’t prevent a frivolous argument from being made that they are related and must pass or fail together.

    In a party system where people predictably vote the same way, it can seem that there is a mass delusion in the legislature when an amendment like that is deemed to be relevant to the single-issue bill in the above example. The legislature needs party-resistant tools for evaluating the relevance of proposed amendments.

    One possibility is to use an AI tool, providing it a summary of the main bill and of the amendment, and getting a relevance score. Another possibility is to run a survey with a random sample of people and whether or how much the two summaries seem related.

    Rather than letting the machine or survey results directly decide what is relevant or not, the legislature can use the relevance score to set the threshold for a vote. For example, if the relevance score indicates the two are highly related, the vote to approve the amendment might be a simple majority vote of 50% in attendance + 1, but if the relevance score indicates the two are barely related or unrelated, the vote to approve the amendment might be a 4/5 supermajority vote.

    Some people may say that multi-issue bills are the result of negotiation and compromise, but in practice the bills are so large that few people know the details of what’s in them, and the practice invites antics such as making demands that few people want to “win” support for something most people want, such that if the other party refuses they look bad for not voting for something most people want, but if they agree they are also stuck with something most people don’t want.

    Instead, compromises on single-issue bills need to be about the material in that single issue so it’s agreeable to the majority (or sufficient supermajority depending on the rules for the vote). Negotiation and compromise involving other issues can still happen but must be done in the form of public pledges to take a certain position or accept a certain compromise on the other issue or issues. If a party leader betrays the pledge, the other party or parties will lose confidence in that leader and won’t compromise anymore, and the leader won’t be able to pass any more legislation that requires a supermajority, resulting in a vote of no confidence from the leader’s own party and the election of a replacement leader who will have to deliver results to the other party or parties to gain their confidence.

    Single-issue bills enable the legislature to make progress on topics that have consensus, instead of catering to extremists and enacting laws that are not in the best interest of the people.

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