Table of Contents

Government Budgeting & Operations

1. Governments Have Two Primary Purposes

Purpose #1

First, they are to create and keep order and enforce fairness in society. Though all elements within a society, including common individuals, bear an absolute responsibility to maintain as much order and fairness within their spheres of influence as possible, it is the government that is ultimately charged with physically enforcing the maintenance of civilized order and fairness.

Purpose #2

Second, governments are to create and maintain a governed environment where lawful human activities can occur and organize themselves towards providing as many of the goods and services demanded by a society as possible with minimal direct support or funding from any public governing body.

A critical part of ensuring this fairness is to enable the free market forces of supply and demand to naturally set the prices for virtually all goods and services while government serves the function of ensuring fairness by requiring these producers to internalize all costs of production (including the costs of all negative externalities) into their prices.

Governments Should Use Sticks, Not Carrots

Since the minority of social activities are unlawful and undesirable, government involvements in society could be kept to minimal levels if their policies are designed from the perspective of penalizing bad or undesirable behavior rather than from the opposite perspective of encouraging good or desirable behavior. Of course, there are instances where explicit encouragement of good behavior is warranted, however, by default, good behavior will always be encouraged if bad behavior is penalized. In other words, governments should generally use ‘sticks’ to punish bad behavior rather than ‘carrots’ to encourage good behavior. Such a governing philosophy will result in a much less complicated and complex society. Since almost all human activities have an economic component to them, government methods of discouragement should generally be primarily economic in nature. In other words, the tax structure and financial penalties should be the most utilized tools for governance.

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2. Monetary Policy

Only Treasury Department To Issue Money

The United States Department of the Treasury, directed by Congress, should be the only institution with the power to issue money (Treasury Notes). Neither the Federal Reserve, nor any other private bank or banking system should have any power to issue new money. This new money should be managed for the public good, not for private profit as is done today. As such, money should not be sold to the government with the charging of interest, as is done today through the selling of bonds, but should be created without any associated debt. Money is a tool used to facilitate the exchange of goods and services in an economy and the decision to increase or decrease the money supply should be solely to serve this public-interest purpose. Therefore, two statistics should be be paramount in this decision: 1) population change (i.e., annual growth or decline) and 2) the price-level index (basically a measure of the price of several goods and services compared over time). These Treasury Notes should not be backed by anything of intrinsic value.

Abolish Fractional Reserve Banking

The reserve ratio of all banks and other financial institutions should be increased from the current 10% (usually) to 100%. The funds for this increase would be provided by debt-free Treasury Notes. In order to keep the money supply stable and prevent hyperinflation, the reserve requirement of banks would be increased at the same rate that payments are made to them with Treasury Notes. Paying off the national debt in such a way need not take more than about one year. (Please see www.themoneymasters.com)

The permanent benefit of transitioning to a non-debt-based money system would be the elimination of the requirement to perpetually pay hundreds of billions of dollars annually in interest payments for merely servicing the national debt. Other benefits include the elimination of the vast majority of inflationary pressures enabling price stability and easy comparability for decades.

Although credit would become scarcer, it would merely be available in quantities that are in line with a natural stability of the system. In other words, fractional reserve banking results in credit that would otherwise not be available, except for the legal ability of banking institutions being allowed the lending of money created out of nothing.

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3. Government Spending & Financing

Balanced Budget

Every country and all levels of government should operate under a balanced budget law that balances, ideally, over the business/economic cycle except during emergencies or threats of emergencies. There should never be a balanced budget requirement that forces balancing every year. Of course, it is always impossible to determine exactly at which point in a business/economic cycle we are in, but the idea is that the first thing governments should do when beginning to run up budget surpluses is to pay off the debts that have accumulated during previous years of deficit spending. When practically all the debts are paid and surpluses still keep coming, then politicians can consider increasing spending (preferably short-term spending), cutting taxes (preferably temporary tax breaks) or saving up for the next economic downturn (the ideal choice). A fairly accurate determination could then be made after a few business/economic cycles as to whether enough effort has been made to reduce debts during periods of economic expansion. Debts continually being carried over into new periods of recession would indicate that not enough emphasis is being made to pay off debts during periods of expansion.

Self-Funded Government Programs

As many government services, programs, or operations as practical should try to be financially self-sufficient, meaning that each program or line in the budget should try to generate its own funding. Some examples would include public school lunch programs, Amtrak, customs inspections, the National Park Service, etc. Though commercial advertising could be allowed as a source of revenue in some cases, the main method to increase revenues should be the charging of user fees.

Government Programs Funded As a Percentage of Revenues

The funding for as many non self funded government programs as possible should be automatically pegged to the increases or decreases in revenue taken in by the government. For example, if total government revenues increase or decrease by 5%, funding for such programs will increase or decrease by 5%.

Government Financial Accountability

No significant amounts of money may be spent by any level of government without being accounted for in an accurate, fairly self-explanatory line entry in a publicly accessible budget. Exceptions to this rule can be made but only rarely and only in cases in which disclosure as to the true purpose or quantity of the funds could potentially provide a significant threat to any law enforcement operations or to the security interests of the US. Nevertheless, on a national scale, in no case and under no circumstances should the true purpose and amounts of intentionally misidentified moneys be kept hidden from the members of the relevant Senate committee of the United States and from the President and Vice President. In other levels of government, officials within the top one or two tiers of leadership should know and be accountable for all funds spent in their departments.

Keeping Spending Within Estimates

Although there is no sure way to predict the future cost of a government project or program, perhaps the following suggestion would help keep these costs within estimated budgets. Each entity that enters into a contract with the government would have a sort of ‘on-budget’ credit rating. These credit rating scores would be derived by averaging the performance of each entity’s completed previous contractual commitments to the government (or to any other customer) in terms of percentage over or under budget that the final costs eventually came to be. The lower an entity’s number or credit rating (i.e., average final costs as a percentage of average estimated costs), the better that entity will look in relation to others in the industry and the easier it will be for it to win future contracts with the government.

Budgeting Rollover

Government agencies (or any kind of organization) should not be required or encouraged to spend all of a current year’s budget due to a threat or possibility of any unspent portions of that budgeted amount being revoked and permanently lost at the end of the funding cycle. All unspent amounts should automatically roll over into next year’s budget. Of course, it’s always possible that upper level budget planners could decide that the next year’s budget could be reduced by a certain amount, even up to an amount equivalent to the previous year’s surplus. However, responsible budgeting would ensure that sufficient funds exist to properly accomplish the stated objectives and that funding for subsequent years would not automatically be reduced because of reduced expenses in the current year. Several valid reasons exist for budget lines not being spent (deferred maintenance, planned large item purchases, etc.) and upper level budget planners need to make sure that none of these reasons are a factor before zeroing out a budget line.

An incentive system should be implemented to reward all employees with a bonus or other reward if their department or organization spent less than their budgeted amount, while still achieving their objectives.

Funding/Salaries for Safety, Oversight, Investigative, and Other Agencies

Perhaps a better way to determine the proper funding, staffing, and workload-per-worker distribution levels at several government (and even private sector) jobs including safety oversight (FAA, NTSB, etc.), investigative (FBI, ATF, DEA, etc.), social (unemployment, welfare, child support agencies, etc.) and other agencies or organizations would be to follow the suggested principles illustrated in the following hypothetical example.

Let’s say the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has 400 employees and investigates 2,000 airplane crashes/incidents per year. The first step is to require the industry that is being overseen to pay for all costs relating to its oversight. In this case, the aviation industry would be required to fully fund the NTSB’s aviation branch. This funding structure could take the form of a small additional revenue tax on the industry (mandatory upon all industry participants) perhaps on the order of 0.05% of revenues or whatever will cover the cost. To start, we could take whatever funding that the NTSB’s aviation branch is currently getting from the government that year, and divide that figure by how many incidents it has solved (closed), not merely investigated, that year. For example, let’s say that this figure comes out to an average of $40,000 for each aviation accident/incident that the NTSB investigates. Every year or two, the NTSB would adjust the amount charged to the airline industry to fund the NTSB’s activities. The main point is that this system of funding should cause there never to be a significant disparity or fluctuation in the ratio between the number of incidents that the NTSB investigates and its level of funding.

The next step is to take a poll (which should be done periodically, like every 2-5 years) of all the employees asking them if they think that they are over worked or under worked and whether they think that the overall workload justifies more new hires or even some reductions in personnel. After a rough balance is found between an adequate workload and staffing levels, an employee pay system should be implemented based on a formula factoring the number of workers and the number of units of work completed (solved airplane accident/incident reports, in this example). Naturally, this system would be fine-tuned over time.

So with 400 people solving 2,000 accident/incident investigations per year, it comes out to an average of 5 investigations per person per year. With the NTSB’s aviation branch getting an average of $40,000 per completed investigation, each of the 400 NTSB employees would share a portion of this amount, for example, $10,000. These $10,000 divided among 400 workers comes out to $25 per solved case. In other words, each worker would receive $25 for every solved accident or incident. The other $30,000 would go towards covering the overhead costs of running the NTSB (office rent, utilities, janitorial staff, etc.).

If the investigative employees feel that they are being overworked, they could recommend that more staff be hired. Let’s say they ask for 40 additional investigators (10% more investigators). While the aviation industry would still be charged the same rate, the distribution of those fees would be altered. Instead of workers getting to share $10,000 per incident solved, they would share about $9,000 (10% less because of the 10% increase in the number of workers). In other words, the same earnings get distributed among more people. It would also work the other way. If the NTSB workers feel that they could do the job properly with fewer employees, then each would get higher pay. If things get too far out of whack, the fees charged to the aviation industry would need to be either raised or lowered or other adjustments could be made where needed.

To help insure that investigations are done thoroughly, there should be heavy fines against the organization when it is determined that an original conclusion was wrong, even if it was an honest mistake. Such fines against the organization should be equivalent to the earnings received from multiple successful investigations. The more egregious investigative mistakes would naturally require higher penalties. For example, if it is concluded that an original investigative conclusion was proven wrong, the NTSB’s aviation branch could be fined the equivalent of what it would have earned for two successful investigations, namely $20,000. This means that for each wrong conclusion, each worker would have $50 ($20,000/400 workers = $50) deducted from their take-home pay.

To help insure against the natural desire for workers to earn more money by saying that the caseloads are manageable even though the waiting list of cases being investigated may be piling up, managers can overrule workers’ desires and hire more workers. A maximum number of unresolved and pending cases may be allowed without mandating the hiring of more personnel. However, if the numbers of unresolved and pending cases exceed 200%, for example, of the average number of cases solved in an average year, then more personnel would need to be hired, regardless of what the workers think. Conversely, if the numbers of unresolved and pending cases fall below a certain threshold, then some workers would be let go.

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4. Criteria For Government Subsidies

In general, but with some important exceptions, the free market should provide society with all of its goods and services without government subsidies. Utilities, food crops, fuel, school lunches, and most other goods and services should not be subsidized. Goods and services should be subjected to the properly regulated forces of the free market to allow for efficient market feedback concerning supply and demand. Subsidies cause the end users to pay less than the ‘true’ cost of the good or service, thus inevitably leading to wasteful usages of the good or service being subsidized. However, there are some good reasons why some things need to be subsidized, the main one being that certain necessary goods or services are not practicably capable of being financially self-supporting.

Subsidy Exceptions

The main exceptions include services directly related to civil governance, such as politicians’ salaries, election expenses, court costs, police protection, providing for the national defense, etc., because these are essential public goods for which government funding is logical.

Subsidies are also justifiable for funding an educational system designed for the masses to create a fully literate (including culturally literate) and skilled (at a basic level) population, as well as a population that is able to think critically and logically through any circumstances, including during all kinds of emergencies.

Another category for exception may be research and development which includes helping birth new technologies as well as research dedicated to expanding human knowledge. Funding these activities should be a major focus of subsidies because private industry is sometimes incapable or unwilling to invest in such research until the fruits of that research have matured enough to be able to survive by themselves in the free market or because it is unlikely that such activities will ever yield profits. Consequently, such funding is very important for producing the breakthrough technologies that often improve the living conditions of populations or advance the knowledge base for continued human research.

Apart from the exceptions mentioned above, government subsidies should be temporary, have very valid reasons, and recipients should be encouraged to wean themselves off of these subsidies so as to survive in the free market. Utilities like water, electricity, natural gas, etc., should not be subsidized merely because many people consider them essential products and services for society. Their degree of importance does not, in itself, justify government subsidies. However, the government should insure that such basic goods and services, like utilities, are provided to the population without interruption, under fair market prices and with a certain degree of reliability.

Subsidy Rule #1

First, there should never be absolute time limits on how long something could be subsidized, but periodic assessments should be made concerning the viability or worthiness of the cause being subsidized and whether the subsidy should continue or whether it would be wiser to gradually or suddenly cut off the subsidy.

Subsidy Rule #2

Second, government subsidies for causes which are deemed not worthy of continued subsidies, but with potential, should generally have their subsidies phased out over a period of years. Phasing out subsidies, as opposed to suddenly eliminating funding, would give the subsidized products a chance to find other sources of funding, encourage a speeding up of its development, and generally improve its chances of eventual success in the free market. Of course, if conditions warrant the subsidy could be frozen at certain levels or maybe even increased, but these should be the exceptions. Depending on several factors, the rate at which a subsidy is decreased probably shouldn’t exceed 20% of the total subsidy per year but average closer to a 10% annual reduction of the subsidy amount. For example, the year in which a decision was made to eliminate a subsidy for a project would automatically be defined as the base year (100%) for which subsequent subsidy reductions would be based. If the agreement calls for a 10% reduction in subsidy amounts each year, this means that during the next year the subsidy would be reduced by 10%, to 90% of its original, base year amount, and the year after that, it would be reduced by another 10%, down to 80% of its base year funding. Five years later, it would have dropped to 50%, and 10 years later, the subsidy would be at zero. If multiple entities are engaged in the production of a subsidized good or service, this gentle decrease in the subsidy amount would prevent disruptive shocks from being transmitted through segments of that market and would give those participants time to plan for further funding or consolidation. The rate at which a subsidy is reduced could be different depending both on specific developments within a market and individual project qualities.

Subsidy Rule #3

Third, subsidies for the production of a good or service should generally decrease as more and more suppliers enter the domestic or foreign market, depending on the purpose of the subsidy. More companies entering a market can generally be taken as an indication that the subsidized good or service has found favor in the market and that competition is beginning to develop. Greater competition generally means that the subsidized good or service has greater production and/or pricing flexibility, essentially, characteristics that would enable it to better survive in a free market environment.

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5. Retirement Age & Social Security Entitlements

Social Security as a universal entitlement program should be phased out over a 50 year period, at most. It should be replaced by a New Social Security program, administered at the state level, designed both to ensure that individuals are contributing sufficiently to satisfy the requirements for minimal savings toward their own retirement account and to ensure that retirees, whether or not they have saved enough, would receive at least enough income and/or services to live a basic life in which all of their most essential necessities are met.

Retirement Age

Retirement age should be defined as life expectancy at age 50 minus 10 years. As of 2008, life expectancy in the United States was 78.4 years (both sexes), which places the retirement age at 68.4 years, according to this proposal.

Individual Funding Expectation for 20 Years of Retirement

People should be required to plan to finance their retirement at a most basic level (to keep them at or above the poverty level) until they reach their life expectancy at age 50 plus 10 years. In other words, people should plan to support themselves for 20 years of retirement. People should be encouraged to increase their retirement funding to a point significantly higher than this minimum requirement so that they could live significantly above the poverty level during retirement. Of course, retirees could continue working to supplement their retirement.

Retirees Living Beyond 20 Years of Retirement

If retirees live past these 20 years, and if they do not have any assets left, the government would then fund the rest of their lives at an expense point equal to what their average for their last 10 years have been, increasing, when necessary to accommodate the increasing medical costs as aging continues.

Government-Monitored Savings Plan

Individuals should have wide-ranging freedom to choose the means by which they wish to invest and save for their retirement. Real estate assets as well as any other valuable assets could be included when valuing retirement portfolios. The government, however, being the ultimate guarantor of these funds to one degree or another, should retain the legal authority to periodically review these investments for adequacy and integrity, ensuring that people are not wildly speculating or unwisely risking their money on overly perilous investments. Every worker aged 25 and older would be required by law to subscribe to a valid retirement savings plan. People who fall way behind in their savings schedule or who fail to choose a valid savings plan on their own would subject themselves to a savings plan/schedule chosen by the government. In addition, if it is determined that they fell behind in their savings schedule without justifiable cause, a penalty of 10% of the underinvested amount would be levied with all proceeds going into their own retirement savings account. Savings enforcement can be done by requiring people to submit proof of savings updates to the government every year. Failure to do so will be met with fines and other effective enforcement measures.

Government-Capped Losses of Retirement Account Balances

If, upon the commencement of retirement, the government approved portfolio of an individual’s retirement account suffered a dramatic fall in value over the last 20 years before the retirement date due to falling investment values, the government will retroactively cap the losses of that portfolio to 3% annually for each of the previous 20 years, if necessary. In other words, the Social Security Administration will guarantee a future retiree with around $550,000 upon retirement if that retiree had a portfolio worth exactly $1,000,000 (in constant dollars) 20 years before their scheduled retirement. A retiree with a portfolio worth $1,000,000 10 years before their retirement would be guaranteed around $737,000 (in constant dollars) upon retirement. An account with $1,000,000 one year before retirement would be guaranteed $970,000 upon retirement. In summary, this 3% capped loss guarantee would only be triggered for portfolios whose value is below $1,000,000 at the time of retirement. Reckless investments taken without government approval during these last 20 working years would partially or fully invalidate this guarantee.

Once an individual has met the minimum investment requirements for retirement (namely, $1,000,000 in cash and/or other assets upon the commencement of retirement), that person would be freed from any government mandate to continue contributions to their retirement account. However, contributors should be reminded of the fairly low level of support guaranteed by the government and should be encouraged to continue investing for retirement. Individuals, who have met their minimum requirements, could invest additional funds in any way they see fit without government oversight. The government will not insure any additional funds, however.

Retirees With Insufficient Funds

Individuals who, at the time of retirement have less than the $1,000,000 minimum retirement funding level would still be guaranteed a maximum portfolio loss of 3% averaged over the last 20 years before retirement, but they would naturally have less money paid out during each of their retirement years. They would need to work out a plan with the government to plan for a 20-year retirement lifestyle consistent with such resources. Such retirees would always be guaranteed enough income and/or services to remain above the poverty level, but the government would have an increasing influence on the kinds of goods and services that can be used by such individuals. In other words, people who have not saved up enough for retirement would be, to various degrees, at the mercy of the government as to what they could buy and where they could live, among other restrictions.

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6. Government Research Funding Priorities

Funding for the Historical Sciences

Governments should greatly increase their funding for certain historical sciences (archaeology, paleontology, etc,) even, if necessary, at the expense of funding other areas of science. These historical sciences are the most logical for government involvement not only because these sciences deal with the history of peoples and their relationships with each other and with their environments, but also because governments are the single largest entity influencing or controlling the usage of lands. It is the usage and consequential disturbance of lands that causes potentially valuable historical information to be effectively lost forever. Once this kind of information is disturbed or destroyed, it is practically lost forever. With global population at such high levels and with land use becoming ever more extensive and intensive, we cannot calmly afford to permanently lose more information at even a fraction of the current rate without being severely and justly criticized by future generations. The window of opportunity for finding out about the past is perpetually and permanently closing at a speed which is orders of magnitude faster than in any other scientific field of study. In fact, in most other sciences, the discovery of information does not depend on the preservation of the natural environment but rather on the dedication of time and financial resources. Governments around the world must quickly increase their focus and funding for the historical sciences.

Astronomical Funding Priorities

Manned space flight is expensive.  Robotic alternatives should be sought for all manned space flights, but especially for any place farther than the moon. Manned programs to Mars and beyond is a clear waste of money. There is absolutely no investigation or data gathering that humans could do on Mars that machines alone cannot do.

The only significant infrastructure that is logical to build on a foreign body is a lunar base, especially on the far side of the Moon.  Telescopes built there would enable astronomers to observe virtually at every point in the electromagnetic spectrum without any significant pollution from Earth. Furthermore, such a lunar surface location offers a stable platform, consistently cold temperature (at least for two weeks at a time) and is permanently in earth’s radio shadow. Telescopes could be kept at perpetually low temperatures if they are placed in deep craters near the lunar poles that are permanently shaded from the sun. Temperatures are low enough that active cooling of sensitive detectors may not even be necessary.

The International Space Station should be shut down and the funding diverted to either robotic missions.

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7. Unfunded Mandates

Higher levels of government should not be required to pay for requirements they place on lower levels of government. Orders from higher levels of government should be honored by the lower levels just because they come from higher levels of government. If lower levels of government feel that they should not be bound by any mandate from a higher level of government, they should file a lawsuit and argue their case in court. Every level of government has the power to raise taxes in order to fund whatever compliance was mandated by the higher level of government.

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8. Welfare

None of the responsibility for providing government financial assistance to low-income individuals in need should fall to the federal government but to state and local governments instead. This should be considered a state function, like state unemployment insurance. This would result in citizens of every state feeling satisfied that none of the dollars they pay in taxes will go to welfare recipients living in states at the other end of the country. This gives both the providers and recipients of welfare funds more of a sense of community which may tend to result in a greater degree of oversight and responsibility as to how the funds are distributed by the donors and spent by the recipients.

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9. Currency – Coins & Paper

The diameter of coin money should be sized according to its represented value. Thus, the $1 coin would be the largest diameter, followed by the quarter, then the dime, the nickel, and finally the penny.

Also, coins should not have ‘coin orientation’ but ‘medallic orientation’, meaning that they should be designed so that their front and back sided are oriented in the same direction, just like the pages of a book. Thus, both sides should be oriented in the same direction when a coin is flipped over along its vertical axis.

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10. Ban ‘Franking’

The practice of ‘franking’ or sending mail at public expense should be banned. At the very most, politicians’ use of franking privileges or funds should be restricted to only covering the costs of sending or shipping (through either mail, telephone, etc.) information that has been requested by a constituent. But even these costs should, ideally, not be borne by the public. The constituent requesting the information should bear all costs associated with receiving that information. Ideally, there should be no franking privileges or funds.  If ‘franked’ mailings are sent at public expense, each mailing should state that fact somewhere on its front cover.

All elected officials should have all of their needs to communicate to their constituents or any other members of the public met by using standard, government-funded and run websites to provide whatever information may be requested.

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11. Voting for One Thing at a Time in Government

Ban ‘Riders’

Voting taking place within government bodies (such as within city councils, the House of Representatives, Senate, etc.) should be limited to only one item at a time. Under no circumstances should any single vote ever be cast for two or more unrelated or even distantly related items. All matters and proposed changes to be decided by such bodies should be independent of everything else. Unrelated riders should never be attached to any bill.

In cases where this degree of individual or independent single item voting cannot be accommodated (such as in budget votes because of many individual budget lines), then each item in that budget must be directly related to the nature of the budget.

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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.

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13. Veto Powers

All supreme elected officials within one jurisdiction should have veto powers. In other words, Presidents (the country’s supreme elected official), governors (the state’s supreme elected official), majors (the city’s supreme elected official), etc., should all have veto powers.

All elected officials that have veto powers should also have the line-item veto. However, a line-item veto should only require, at most, a simple majority to override. In some cases, perhaps for minor or relatively minor issues, as few as 40% or even 1/3 of the governing body would be required to successfully override a line-item veto.

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14. Law Making & Implementation Principles

Verbal Statements Should Hold Relatively Little Weight

Official policies of any government should always be written down in some official document. Never should verbal statements by the President or Congress members, even if in an official speech, be viewed as official policy. Every single person, from the press to other members of government (worldwide), and even the common citizen, should be trained that only what is written down in some official document is the actual policy. All people, both in government and the common person on the street, should automatically refrain from getting worked up on any bit of information that has merely been spoken by any politician. It is too easy for people to misspeak, to not have stated their message in the correct order, or to have missed certain points of emphasis or included tangential thoughts that are not entirely relevant to the message they intended to convey, etc.

Laws Dependent on Future Change
Laws which in some way rely on some kind of future technological or other developments to enable its compliance should not be proposed, much less passed into law, even if such laws are not to take effect until some future date.

For example, it should be prohibited to legally require future internal combustion engines to have lower emission levels even though the technology does not yet exist for achieving such emissions levels. Also, requiring the reduction in one kind of pollution emission by a certain year is not only arbitrary but also unreasonably dependent not only perhaps on technology and economics, but also on social behavior, factors which cannot and should not be predicted in order to meet the future deadline of the law. Guidelines and targets for the future could be set, but never should they be written into law.

Laws Should Take Effect on Fixed Days

All laws, except emergency laws, but including tax laws and virtually all other government policies, should go into effect on certain fixed days every year (such as once a year on Jan. 1st; twice a year, Jan. 1st, July 1st; four times a year, Jan. 1st, April 1st, July 1st, and Oct. 1st; or even on the first of every month). Once a year on the 1st of January would be preferable because it would make it much less confusing to people about when new laws take effect.

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15. Reducing Congressional Time Off

Congress has too much time off. Congress should hardly have fewer working days than regular federal employees. At the very least, Congress should work (within their elected body) at least as many days as children are required to go to school (180, but preferably 200 days).

To reduce the degree of polarity and increase the degree of civility and encourage members of Congress to view and treat each other like rational human being as opposed to illogical aliens who don’t have any valid reason for taking the positions that they do, it is imperative that members of Congress spend more time with each other.  Currently, members often fly into Washington late in the week and then leave to go back to their districts well before the end of the workweek.  This is just not enough time to study and discuss issues in an atmosphere rich with a variety of different views. Such diversity during deliberative discourse is essential for moderate and well thought-out policymaking.

The legislative calendar should be modified so as to encourage members to spend longer, solid blocks of time together. One way to do this would be to mandate that members of Congress spend three weeks in Washington and one week back in their home district, as proposed by Jonathan Haidt.

This proposal, in conjunction with the proposal addressing the issue of Bill Introduction/Procedures/Final Resolution in Congress, will enable the proper degree of attention and amount of time to be dedicated toward studying the various issues up for a vote.

Most of the US Congress members’ time should be spent in Washington and only a small minority of time spent in their home districts doing official work. Elected members should already have come to Washington knowing what their constituents want. They shouldn’t need to ‘learn’ about constituent needs by holding town hall meetings and such. Feedback from current constituents in the district to their current Representative should take place in writing.

In the end, the job of any representative is to do their homework before they actually take the job.  Representative should not spend significant amounts of time actively polling, conducting townhall meetings and other constituent outreach events to ‘take the temperature’ of their district.  These things should have been done before they took office and any changes could be monitored remotely. Instead, representatives should spend the vast majority of their time in Washington studying and debating the issues with other members.

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16. Reduced Privacy Protections for Public Elected/Appointed Figures & Intelligence Personnel

All publicly elected and possibly some or all appointed officials should receive significantly fewer privacy protections than the general population. This does not necessarily mean that significantly more information would be made available to the general public. This is only to ensure that a much lower threshold of privacy protections would apply to elected and appointed officials so that it would be much easier for the proper authorities to detect corruption or any other wrongdoing at a much earlier stage. In other words, part of the price of serving in public office is that much more or even all of an individual’s private finances, travels, communications, and perhaps other activities would be subject to government surveillance without the official’s knowledge and/or in spite of his objections. Furthermore, interrogations of family member and/or others closely related to the subject could be conducted, often times even before hiring and periodically during service, but especially when suspicions are aroused. Any information gathered in such a manner would be treated as confidential and not publicly divulged unless it serves a public interest.

Potentially significant past information (such as virtually all financial transactions) should also be disclosed by the elected or appointed official (preferably before their election or appointment) so that the proper authorities and even the public, if necessary, could be made aware of potential conflicts of interest or other concerns. Monitoring of the past and present financial activities and other potentially significant areas of a public servant’s life should continue at least throughout their public service.

Perhaps 5 or 10 years after the individual’s public service is complete and his surveillance has ended, several details, or even his entire surveillance history, should be made know to him, unless the divulging of this information could compromise the effectiveness of certain methods of government investigation.

Intelligence People Working Like Monks and Under Intense Oversight

In addition, very high level government/intelligence people with knowledge of very important information that is classified or very closely guarded should be required, as a condition of their employment or access to such information, to live either as virtual monks, with little or no travel or little or no engagement in activities that introduce the possibility that important information could fall into the wrong hands, and/or they should agree to undergo strict, 24-hour surveillance and be limited in where they could go and what they could do for the rest of their lives or until the information they have becomes outdated or not a security threat. There should be absolutely no privacy protections for these people. All their financial dealings should be reviewed constantly. Perhaps they should be recorded by video 24 hours a day or they could even be required to wear some device, like a watch, that would record audio, video, body characteristics, etc. This information could be required to be downloaded every day and stored or reviewed by others, ‘monks’ for example, sworn to secrecy. These recordings would be kept for many decades.

Anyone who misuses any of this private information should be heavily punished, potentially including torture and death. This is to necessary to maintain the public trust.

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17. Filibusters

Outlaw filibusters. Under no circumstances should the legislative process be stopped or derailed by one or a few people.

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18. Vote Buying & Illegal Voting Pressures

How Voting Should Work

The decision on how to vote should depend only on the merits of the matter being considered. Votes should not be traded or even attempted to be used as a method to give or receive favors, build support among members, or any other reason not directly related to the merits of the issue.

Buying Votes

The buying and selling of votes should be severely penalized. The penalties for buying or selling the votes of common citizens in regular national, state or local elections could be $500 for each vote bought or sold. If vote buying or selling takes place at higher level of government, such as among members of city councils, State legislatures, etc., the penalties/fines for each party would be drastically higher, like $5,000 per vote bought or sold. These activities taking place in the federal government, like in Congress, should face much more severe punishment, such as $50,000 fines for each bought or sold vote. Removal from office should also be one of the punishments for any public servant engaged in such activities. In addition, on the national level, penalties should include forfeiture of some of the freedoms of the vote buyers and sellers.

Bullying The Vote

Government and elected officials should be forbidden from threatening, intimidating, bullying, or unethically pressuring others to vote a certain way on any piece of legislation. Threats of voting a certain way on future legislation (retaliatory voting) should not be used to gain a favorable vote on any other piece of legislation in the present or future. Such actions should be defined as criminal offenses automatically subjecting the official to removal from office along with hefty fines, double of what would have been imposed if merely buying of the vote were to have occurred. Fines could be set as $50,000 per infraction within state governments and $100,000 per infraction involving federal government officials.

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19. Politician Socialization Restrictions

As a general rule, government policy makers, or government officials who have a significant influence on policymakers should not be allowed to spend a significant amount of time in personal contact with members of their constituency (including lobbyists, representative of any special interest, etc.) or others that have a direct or indirect interest in influencing that official. All communications between policymakers and their potential influence seekers should generally be done through writing, not face to face. Such a policy will dramatically reduce the natural pressures to please people the politician comes in contact with by reducing the actual or perceived threats of social stigmatization and personal criticism. Reading about the opinions and desires of constituents, rather than talking directly with them will also help enable the politician to make decisions using a more accurate, and most useful, third-party perspective.

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20. Executive Branch Initiating Legislation

The Executive branch of government (the President) should be allowed to initiate and introduce legislation into the House and Senate with the same ease and using the same rules as normal legislation that originates in those bodies. Though sponsor(s) and pledged supporters would be needed from the governing body to which it has been introduced, the President’s name would appear as the author.

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21. Present During Voting

Elected officials and maybe even appointed officials should not be required to be present at the exact times during which voting is underway on a bill in order for their votes to be counted. These people should be able to cast their votes in advance but with the ability to change them at any point before the final date and time of the vote.

Not only would such flexibility inflict zero harm on the legislative process, it would actually enhance the process by not forcing legislators into arbitrary, unnecessarily rigid and inefficient schedules. It would also increase the voting rates of these legislators, thus creating a more complete record for constituents to review in the future.

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22. Abstention Vote

At no time should an abstention be considered the same as a no vote (as it currently is in the California State Assembly and several other government bodies). In all levels of government, abstentions should always be treated as what they are, a refrain from voting. Abstentions should be dropped from consideration for purposes of determining whether the ‘Yes’ side or the ‘No’ side won.

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23. Ban Voice Vote In Government

There should be no such thing as officially unrecorded votes for any piece of legislation at any level of government. Voice votes and all other forms of voting should be officially recorded so that any outside person who reviews the record would know exactly who voted and how they voted.

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24. Prohibit ‘Social Commentary’ Voting

Public government bodies such as city councils, state assemblies, and other levels of government and government agencies should not spend significant amounts of time engaging in what is called ‘social commentary’ and should not spend any time conducting ‘social commentary’ voting. That is, they should not waste time by discussing or, much less, voting on issues over which they have no control.

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25. Disorderly Conduct in Government Institutions

There ought to exist penalties for disorderly conduct in all governmental sessions, especially at the federal level in the House of Representatives and Senate of the United States. Disorderly conduct is an embarrassing event in such places. Penalties should depend on the level of enforcement required to bring order again. If physical enforcement is required the penalty should be equivalent to half a year’s salary. If very strong verbal enforcement is needed, the penalty should be equivalent to a quarter-year’s salary. If only an unusually strong verbal enforcement is needed, the penalty should be equivalent to one month’s salary.

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26. Political Terms – More Logical Starting and Ending Points

The terms of elected officials such as Presidents, US Senators and Representatives should end on clear and logical days and times, such as the evening midnight of December 31st. Most, if not all, political terms should begin and end in similar ways or at least at the transition period of months or quarters of the year, such as midnight June 30th.

In addition, Presidents should serve nice, round, 5-year terms. For example, Presidential terms should begin on the morning midnight of January 1st of years whose numbers end in 0 or 5, and would end on the evening midnight of December 31st of years ending in the numbers 4 and 9.

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27. Government Exemption from Laws

No level of government may exempt itself from any law it passes unless its inclusion under the law poses a threat to the security of the government or people, if its exclusion is logical, or if the people vote to allow the government to be exempt from particular laws.

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28. Vice Presidential Treatment

Vice presidents should be as informed as the Presidents. They should be privy to all the information that the President is privy to, they should be allowed into all the same meetings and should be treated pretty much as if they were the President, except they should lack the final decision-making authority, of course.

More official authority should be given to them, such as perhaps specializations in the defense and foreign policy areas, as has recently been a tradition.

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29. Statistical Sampling

The statistical sampling method should be among the methods legally allowed and used to conduct a census of a US population, or any population that would otherwise prove to be too difficult, impractical, uneconomical, or impossible to conduct using other methods, such as enumeration.

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30. Property Boundary Line Disputes

In cases where property lines are disputed by their respective owners, the first step, obviously, is to consult with the most accurate maps to determine proper ownership. The line should then be redrawn and enforced. In cases where the disputed boundary is between two states, and the affected existing property owners have assumed to have resided in one state whereas the new mapping shows the property to truly belong to the other state, attempts should be made to get the owner to agree to change. However, if the owner desires, that owner may continue to use their existing social services (utilities, local schools, post office, hospital, etc.) until the next occupant of the property moves in. All new sales or renting of the property would require full placement of that property in the correct state.

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43. Building Permits

Residential landowners should be required to get city permission or ‘permits’ only for property or structural changes that either potentially affect the safety or property of neighbors (such a placing pools upslope from neighboring properties), affects the number of housing units on the property (such as converting single family properties into duplexes), affect the utility meters on the property, changes that would intrude on spaces at the edges of the property (such as building or placing anything that would permanently remain higher than 20 feet (6 meters) above the ground surface of the property, or digging that would disturb soil deeper than 10 feet (3 meters) below the ground surface, or building structures within the buffer zones at the edges of the property).

For perhaps every other major property change, permits should not be required, although the residents would be required to notify the city within one year of the completion of any major changes. For example, all of the following changes would not need to be permitted, but homeowners/property owners would be required to report them to the appropriate government agency: any changes in wall placement in building (this includes both internal and external walls), major structural changes that don’t involve walls (such as concrete porch extensions, patio decking, gazeboes, permanent BBQ kitchens, trellis coverings, carports, low walls/railings (over 2 feet high), swimming pools/hot tubs (permanent), boundary line fence installation/replacement, skylight installation, changes in the number of toilets, showers/tubs, sinks on property, major changes in room usage (converted garages, guest room changed to home office, etc.). Resurfacing (not patch repairs) of sidewalks (because it is government property), and flagpole installation in the front yard (because they are so eye-catching and visible), and drilling water wells should also require permits.

To remind homeowners that they need to report these changes within one year, perhaps a one-page form could be included with annual tax documents mailed to all property owners. Regardless of how they are reminded, pictures of the change(s) should be mailed to the appropriate government agency along with a brief description of the change. Contractors who perform these changes could also remind homeowners, in writing, that they need to report the changes.

Every home owner/property owner should have access to an updated digital copy of the floor plans and designs available on this government agency’s database.

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44. Eminent Domain

The owner of property acquired through the power of eminent domain should be compensated with more than the fair market value of the property. Depending on several things like the willingness of the owner to sell the property, the amount of time the owner has owned or has been living on the property, the amount of ‘history’ the owner has experienced on the property (raising a family, got married on the property, etc.), maybe up to twice or even as much as three or four times the fair market value of the property should be offered in some cases. The courts should be the final arbiters for determining the actual amount awarded to property owners. Standardized guidelines should be created and consulted so that the courts and everyone else involved could have a general idea regarding how much of an economic value each ‘historical’ event that took place on the property would be worth.

Governments should only be allowed to use their powers of eminent domain to purchase properties for public ownership and for public uses. However, governments could, without using its powers of eminent domain, voluntarily purchase properties for any use, including with the intention of reselling it to private developers, if the governments and current property owners could come to a negotiated agreement over the purchase price.

If, properties obtained through the powers of eminent domain, were later decided to not be used for public purposes, then, before such non-public uses are permitted, the original owners should be given the priority to exercise the option of repurchasing the land at current market prices.

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45. Neighborhood Fencing

The maximum allowable height for fencing around private property should be 8 feet. This fence height would be allowable only beginning 5 feet further back behind the minimum allowable setback from the front property line. A 6-foot fence should be allowed beginning at the minimum allowable setback and continuing to the rear of the property. A 4-foot fence height should be allowed throughout the front of the property. Exemptions could be made to allow for higher fences, but convincing reasons should be submitted to the government for approval.

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46. Residential Side Yard Buffers

All residential properties with frontages of at least 20 meters (60 feet) should have side yard buffers of 3 meters (9 feet) on each side of their property adjoining other residential properties. (Front and rear yards would not be effected.) Residential properties with frontages of between 14 and 20 meters (42-60 feet) should be required to maintain buffers equivalent to 15% of the property frontage length on both sides of the property. Properties with frontages less than 14 meters (42 feet) should be required to maintain buffers on each side equivalent to 10% of the property width. These buffer zone, which are slightly increased over the normal 5-foot buffer zone average for residential side yards, would help reduce the amount of noise traveling across property lines and allow more sunlight in the areas between the houses. Existing buildings would naturally not be required to comply with these buffers. However, any new construction or renovation would be required to abide by these new buffer spacing requirements.

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47. Threshold for Requiring Changes under Disability Laws

Disability laws should require all new and (during the next major remodeling) existing commercial and residential structures to be changed to accommodate those with disabilities only if the proposed changes would significantly benefit more than one percent of the total affected population or if a current occupant needs the accommodation and if the expense of compliance is within reason in relation to the benefit provided. (The total affected population is defined as the total potential population that is most likely to purchase, rent or otherwise significantly use the facility.)

Tenants could be required to pay for any compliance changes, and the owner could choose who makes those changes, but the tenant should not be responsible for paying more than the average bid for the necessary work to be performed. The property owner would be required to pay the rest.

Existing commercial and residential structures should not be required to comply with disability laws as a prerequisite to the sale of that structure.

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48. Existing Structures: Disability/Environmental Mandates

No level of government should have a right to require that private existing residential properties be made accessible to people with disabilities at any time, including during a sale of the property. Neither should they have the authority to demand that any other property (either new residential or existing or new commercial) be made accessible to people with disabilities unless more than one percent of the total population share some disability that would benefit from the mandates.

In addition, no level of government should be allowed to mandate the use of any resource efficiency device, like low-flow toilets or showerheads. Governments could encourage the use of certain devices, but it should always be left up to the consumer to decide how efficient they choose to be. If resource prices are set correctly, then nobody should care how much somebody chooses to waste.

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49. Building Guidelines in Hurricane Prone Areas

All structures in hurricane prone areas, specifically the coastal counties in which at least part lie within 100 miles of the ocean in the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, must be built to withstand winds of at least 100 MPH without sustaining any significant structural damage or shedding debris resulting from the high winds themselves.

Airports and seaports/harbors should both provide for the safety of aircraft and boats/ships from direct wind and wave damage from hurricanes with wind speeds of up to 100 mph and/or they should have a policy of flying or sailing their craft to safer places, most probably out of the path of the hurricane.

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50. Public Restroom Requirement

Businesses, public or private complexes, shopping malls, etc., with an average daily flow of over 1,000 people should be required to have at least one restroom. Areas with average daily flow rates of over 2,000 people should be required to have either two separate unisex restrooms or one male restroom and one female restroom. Areas with average daily flow rates of over 2,500 people should be required to have twice as many female stalls (toilets) as male stalls (toilets).

The government should be required to provide at least two public unisex restroom facilities within commercial districts within half a kilometer of each other or within half a kilometer of the nearest mandated commercial or business public restroom facilities.

All mandated public restroom facilities should also be required to have drinking water fountains.

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51. Settling Competing Land Claims

In areas such as the Western United States, there are several locations where the ownership of the land is in question. More specifically, for example, there was an article in the USA Today newspaper (12-15-00) that talked about the confusion that began under an 1872 mining law that encouraged settlement of the West by giving land away to people who had done at least a minimal amount of mining on the land. The miners could then apply for a ‘mining patent’ and, once granted, the land was legally theirs. The problem was that several different government agencies were involved in the process of issuing ‘mining patents’. These government agencies kept their own separate map records and often did not compare their maps with each other as often or as accurately as they should have, due, in part, to the rapid claiming and settlement of the land in those days. Problems arose when miners, who had applied for and obtained ‘mining patents’, were given land that overlapped claims that had already been deeded to previous patent holders. Other problems arose when patent holders, who needed workers to work in their mines, had given permission (I assume to have been temporary/conditional) to build their homes on property owned by the miners holding the patent rights to the land.  Eventually, the mining activity died out, but the people continued to live on the land.  Counties just started listing the new properties on their tax rolls creating this dual ownership confusion.

Probably the best way to clear up this mess would be as follows. First, only original, official land claims (mining patents) would be honored while successive mining patents would not.  Successive patent holders (or their legal descendants) should have the option to buy their disputed land from the original patent holders (or their legal descendants) if they want to sell, for the fair market value of the land only, excluding any improvements or developments.  If the successive patent holders (or their legal descendants) want to buy the land, the government (or whatever agency was responsible for giving rise to this problem) would be the party required to pay the original patent holders (or their legal descendant) for the cost of the land.

Similarly, original settlers or legal descendants to whom the property has been gifted, and who have been paying taxes on it should also be allowed to buy the land (if the original owner wants to sell) with the government paying the bill.  But since these people never did legally own the land, the government should cap their payment to the original patent holder to an amount equal to the total property taxes that have been paid by that parcel since the very beginning.  The current residents would need to pay the rest, if necessary.

In cases where such parcels were sold by someone not holding a deed for the parcel and the current occupants have paid the full market price of the parcel (land and development), the government should bare the full cost (land only) required to satisfy the original patent holder for the land in dispute.

If the land is currently in use by a successive patent holder, the original owner would have the right to begin an eviction.  However, such evictions must be orderly and must provide the current occupant with plenty of time (up to 10 years) to vacate the land, depending on its current use and the specifics of each case.  In cases of eviction, the government should pay the successive patent holders (or their legal descendants) for the cost of the improvements to that land.  If the original settlers or their legal descendants or others who similarly have never held any deed to the property are evicted, the government should pay them the equivalent of the amount of property taxes that have been paid by that parcel since the beginning to compensate them for losing the benefits of the developments to the land.

If the patent holders’ official deed records issued by the government have been lost and no alternative methods exist for practically reconstructing these records, then the government (through the courts, if necessary) should try to authenticate the deed claims and ascribe a probability of such claims being true.  For example, if the government determines that their is a 50% chance of the deed claim being true, then the holder of the claim should be allowed to sell that land for 50% of the current value of the land only.  This would exclude the value of any developments or improvements unless, of course, the original patent holder (or a legal descendant) actually developed or improved the land.

The original patent holders would have the right to ask any squatter on their land to leave. But as punishment to patent holders who have not actively and continuously contested the presence of squatters or informed them of their illegal residence, the patent holder must compensate the squatter for all the improvements (buildings, etc.) made on the land at full market rates and cannot force the squatter to remove them. If patent holders did actively contest the land for a long time to both the government and residents alike, these patent holders should not be required to compensate the current land users the full amount but only maybe 25% with the government picking up the rest of the bill for land improvements. It would be wrong to force people to leave their homes and businesses without proper compensation after living often large portions of their lives on lands whose ownership was not clearly contested by others or properly recorded and enforced by the government.

 

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