Government Policy-Making Procedures
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.1 Comment
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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 9.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments
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.0 Comments