12. Bill Introduction/Procedures/Final Resolution in Congress

Bill Must Have a Sponsor

Each bill should have one or more sponsors, defined as a member of the legislative body in which the bill is introduced. The sponsor or sponsors would be responsible for coordinating discussions on the bill and would be the only person or people with the authority to remove the bill from consideration, if so desired. Any party, including external to the legislature, could write a bill. Sponsorship would allow a bill to become officially visible to all other members of the legislative body, allowing them to review the bill and decide if they would like to promise their vote for it.

Bill Must Gain Critical Support for Introduction and to Allow Formal Body-Wide Vote

Each bill would need pledged support (promised vote) from a critical number of other members of the same legislative body to prove that the bill has a significant enough level of support to warrant a vote of the entire legislative body. If a bill has the signed and promised support of at least 10% of the voting members (10 Senators or 44 Representatives), then the entire Senate or House, respectively, should be allowed to schedule a vote on that bill. Bills with less than these minimum numbers of legislators promising their support should not be allowed to be submitted.

Committees and Sub-Committees Should Only be Temporary

Senate or House committees or sub-committees should all be temporary committees set up only for purposes of investigating or studying specific issues. Bills should not be required to pass or get a majority vote in such committees in order to be sent to the full legislative body to allow a full floor vote. However, these committees may propose and sponsor bills (if they meet the minimum support requirements stated above) for the entire legislative body to discuss and vote.

Minimum 1-Month Study Period Between Bill Introduction and Vote

There should be at least a one-month (4-week/28-day) study period between the time a bill is introduced into the House of Representatives or Senate and the time for which it has been scheduled for a vote. During this time, the bill cannot be altered or changed in any way.  No amendments may be offered by anyone. However, the sponsor(s) may choose to withdraw the bill at any time prior to the start of voting and for any reason (including to make changes for a later resubmission, after enough legislators, again, sign on in support). At the end of this one-month study period, a vote on the bill will be taken.

Vote Tallying Method

The votes of individual members should be kept confidential until after the voting is completed and the bill’s fate is known. The total number of ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Abstentions’, and ‘Undecided’ votes should be made public immediately after each voting session of the bill. Excluding the members who ‘Abstain’, if a bill receives a ‘Yes’ vote from at least 50% plus 1 members of the deliberating body, regardless of how many ‘Undecided’ votes it received, then the bill has passed. If vice versa, then the bill has failed. For example, let’s say a bill in the Senate, where there are 100 Senators, receives 2 ‘Abstentions’, 20 ‘Undecided’ votes, 27 ‘No’ votes, and 51 ‘Yes’ votes. The bill would have passed. Let’s say another example was a bill that received 3 ‘Abstentions’, 17 ‘Undecided’ votes, 31 ‘No’ votes, and 49 ‘Yes’ votes. The bill would have passed because the 49 ‘Yes’ votes were more than the combined total of 31 ‘No’ votes and 17 ‘Undecided’ votes (which potentially could have been ‘No’ votes), which together account for only 48 votes. Senators casting ‘Abstaining’ votes and Senators who chose not to vote for whatever reason would not be considered.

Though the ‘Undecided’ votes could not have changed the outcome in the above examples, sometimes they could definitely change the outcome. An example would be if there are 46 ‘Yes’ votes, 45 ‘No’ votes, and 9 ‘Undecided’. Since there are no majority of votes but enough undecided votes to cause a majority one way or the other, more time should be allowed for the undecided voters to decide. In cases such as these, an extra two weeks would be given to the entire Senate so that the undecided members could study the bill some more. Then at the end of these two weeks, a final vote of the entire Senate would be taken again. If any Senator now votes “Undecided”, that vote would be treated as if it were an “Abstention” vote and eliminated from consideration, even if the total of ‘Undecided’ votes still has the potential to create a winning majority. It would then be a simple matter of counting the ‘Yes’ vs. ‘No’ votes to see which side has won the plurality of votes. If there is a tie, using normal Senate rules, the Vice-President would cast the deciding vote.

Insufficient Number of Decisive Votes Would Result in Mandatory Educational Sessions

But if, at this stage, 20% or more of the legislative body still vote as either ‘Undecided’ or ‘Abstain’, then the bill will automatically be withdrawn from the floor and an informational conference would be convened with mandatory attendance by the people who voted as being ‘Undecided’ or ‘Abstainers’. Each of these members would be entitled to ask up to 40 distinct questions (and questions which are different from any others that have been asked) and receive answers from either the sponsor(s) or other sponsor-approved supporters of the bill. The sponsor(s) of the legislation under discussion would be required to attend these conferences while some leading opponents and proponents would be encouraged, but not required, to attend. This conference could also be open to every member of the deliberating body who wishes to attend. The maximum length of this conference should be set at two weeks. After the undecided and abstaining voters have asked their up to 40 questions apiece or after the undecided and abstaining members agree that they have been given about all the information or clarity that can be expected (whichever comes first), the conference would be officially closed and yet another vote of the full body would be scheduled to occur a maximum of one week after the official close of the conference. This would absolutely be the last vote given on this bill. (It would be the third vote.) This time, any ‘Undecided’ and ‘Abstention’ votes would be discarded for purposes of determining which side won. A simple plurality count of the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ votes would determine the fate of the bill.

Bill Dies If Necessary 80% Decisive Vote Requirement Is Not Met After Mandatory Education Sessions

A quorum of at least 80% of the members of that legislative body should be required to vote either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on a bill in order for that vote to be legitimized. Fewer than 80% of the members casting a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote after the third and final round of voting, would automatically result in the death of that bill. Bills that have been rejected (voted down) or killed because of a lack of a quorum should be prevented from being resubmitted in a notably similar form until 12 months have passed.

No bill submitted in any legislative governing body should ever be allowed to die simply because the legislative term has ended. The life of bills should only end if a final vote ending it has been taken, if its sponsor(s) have opted to withdraw it from consideration, or if its sponsor(s) and/or the critical number of initial supporters are no longer members of the legislative body considering the bill (in which case the bill would be given 14 days at the start of the next legislative session in which to find new sponsor(s) and regain a sufficient number of initial supporters before moving forward). If no new sponsor(s) and an insufficient number of initial supporters are found within 14 days, then the bill would die. Though any member of the legislative body could review the bill during these 14 days, no official study period would begin and no voting should be allowed on the bill until sponsor(s) and enough supporters are found.

Simplified Voting Procedure

To save members the hassle of voting, and remembering to vote, for the same bill the same way up to three different times, they could cast their vote anytime during the 28-day study period, beginning just after a bill is introduced, and have this vote kept on record (though secret) all the way through to final resolution of the bill. Members would be completely free to change their vote on any bill at any point between the times a bill was originally introduced and its final resolution, except for the few minutes when the official scheduled voting on that bill is currently underway.

Bill Sent to Other Chamber

After a bill has passed one chamber of Congress, it would be automatically sent to the other chamber of Congress for introduction.  This other chamber of Congress must introduce this bill within two weeks of having received it.  No changes or amendments could be made to this bill and the same length of time (28 days) should elapse between its introduction and a vote.  The same regulations should apply concerning voting thresholds and procedures as applied in the first chamber.

Leave a Reply