It’s time to make our state and federal lawmakers adhere to a budget when it comes to proposing public policy: One bill per legislator per year.
Restricting the number of laws a legislator can propose is needed because our politicians seem unable to contain their urge to propose bills of all kinds. Reducing the number of laws will also help stem the tide of government growth.
There are strategies already in place to stop government overreach. We have term limits, but they don’t seem to work, since they only force lawmakers to work more quickly (and propose more bills) to leave a legacy. We have the threat of upcoming elections, but the damage is usually done before the electorate can oust the offender. We have impeachment, but that’s an improbable process since it requires other lawmakers’ approval. So what can be done?
A recent flurry of extreme proposals demonstrate the need for clipping lawmakers’ seemingly unrestricted ability to cause damage via the lawmaking process.
We’ll start in New York, Rhode Island and Vermont (Virginia has wisely put their bill on hold), where late-term abortion bills have become all the rage, both literally and figuratively. Democrats in those states have either approved or are discussing laws that allow for the extermination of babies (liberals prefer the word “fetuses”) in their third trimester.
For years, pro-choice and pro-life folks have lived under laws that allowed for abortions in the case of the mother’s life, rape and incest, all in consultation with a licensed doctor. But these dangerously bold new laws throw that delicate compromise out of balance. And short-sighted politicians, likely angry post-Kavanaugh, have brought us to this point where rage is once again flowing on both sides of the abortion debate.
The other ground-shaking bill to come out recently was the bizarre manifesto by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called the “Green New Deal.” Ban airline travel in 10 years? Ban the internal combustion engine? Ban “farting cows?” Retrofit every building in the country for energy efficiency? Guarantee every American a job? Wow. Such insanity. We wouldn’t wish this kind of government-imposed social and economic upheaval on our worst enemy.
Closer to home, Maine lawmakers are proposing silly, useless bills, too – about 2,000 of them. One legislator, who later killed his own proposal, but not before causing a statewide stir, wanted to change Maine’s motto from “Vacationland” to “Staycationland.” Another would put cameras in the backs of ambulances. Say what? Say goodbye to privacy, that’s what. Another bill wants to ban the reading of books considered pornographic. Haven’t we already hashed this issue out? Yes, and it’s a local school board’s decision to make.
While you may agree or disagree with the merit of these and other bills, it’s hard to argue they’re anything more than name-makers for self-important legislators. They waste other lawmakers’ and staff’s time, as well as taxpayers’ money, and cause angst and frustration.
The overwhelming silliness needs to stop. Limit the number of bills legislators can propose, and that’ll limit the damage they can inflict. One bill per lawmaker would allow for 35 bills in the Maine Senate and 151 in the House. That’s more than enough to deal with the necessities of governing. And they’d have to make their one bill appealing enough to garner bipartisan approval, which would improve governing.
Something needs to be done to limit government. Making our representatives choose their proposals wisely would be a good start.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.