February 27, 2009

I'm Just A Bill

Sunlight Foundation is at it again.

By 'it,' of course, I mean completely rethinking out our government interacts with its citizens. it's no secret that I'm a big fan of the Sunlight's work, and this project is no different. Read The Bill is a campaign asking Congress to post bills online at least 72 hours prior to floor debate. Sounds pretty commonsense to me. Whatever political persuasion you subscribe to, it's a pretty universal belief that lawmakers should read the bill that they are signing into law. And since we're part of the Digital Age, why can't us regular folk get a chance to look the legislation over, too?

In an email I received yesterday, Sunlight's Executive Director explains why this campaign is so important:

Dear Sunlighter,

Here's something terrifying: Congress passed the $787 billion Stimulus Bill and we're pretty sure the people who voted on that legislation didn't actually read it. And for sure you didn't have a chance to look at it, either. That's not the first time important legislation has rushed through Congress in a matter of hours. By hurrying to vote on these bills, members of Congress might miss an earmark or tax break that could have a lasting impact on you and your community.

Congress just passed the largest piece of spending legislation in history and no one Read The Bill. Let's make sure this doesn't happen again. Demand that they Read The Bill and sign our petition now:


Read The Bill is a commonsense solution -- we want Congress to post all bills online for 72 hours before they are debated. That gives members of Congress - and you - three days to read legislation and consider how it could potentially affect each of us in our daily lives. A 72-hour rule would also give you a chance to let your representative in Congress know what you like, or don't like, about a bill before he or she votes.

Here are some examples of bills that were passed when members of Congress only had a few hours to read each one.

-TARP bailout bill (2008): rushed through Congress with few provisions for accountability

-Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008: Congress' Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout

-PATRIOT Act (2001): rushed through Congress and, consequently, expanded the federal government's ability to gather intelligence, engage in domestic surveillance and secret searches and detain immigrants with little restraint

Just yesterday, the House of Representatives approved a $410 billion omnibus spending bill. Unlike the Stimulus Bill, it was posted online for two days, which allowed members of Congress - and citizens, alike - to read and discuss the bill for a short period of time before it was considered in Congress. But even that is not enough. Let's remove the disparity and uncertainty that makes some bills available while others are cloaked in secrecy. Let's continue to allow everyone to Read The Bill for at least 72 hours before it is considered in Congress.

Help us urge Congress to take some time to Read the Bill-- sign our petition today.

Thank you for your time on this important matter.

Ellen Miller
Executive Director, Sunlight Foundation

P.S. For real time news and updates, you can follow Read The Bill on Twitter.

This issue has a simple solution. The Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader traditionally set the voting schedule, so all Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Reid have to do is delay floor introduction 72 hours after the bill passes committee. Pretty easy, right? Pelosi could even make the call from her private jet (ZING!).

Please join me by signing the petition to post bills online 72 hours in advance of debate.

"The who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them."
Mark Twain

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Resolution that the representative from Arizona has a point. Seconded. Any objection? The resolution is passed!