FreedomWorks has selected the Readable Legislation Act, H.R. 5759, as the bill of the month for December 2016. The bill was introduced by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) in the House of Representatives on July 13. It has yet to come up for a vote for reasons that are unexplainable.
The Readable Legislation Act calls for a revision on how bills are amended in the visual aspect of the text. More specifically, it requires amended bills to include the original language, along with the changes made or requiring a strikethrough, similar to that of the states. No longer would a simple reference to the original text be allowed.
The current practice, while convenient for lawmakers, ranks low on the transparency scale. Many times the changes on amended bills are not clear, to the point where it leaves room for various interpretations of the text or hours of research to clarify what exactly proposed change to the law does. This can become a problem when public administrators are involved in the everyday process of implementing policy. They cannot do their jobs correctly if the policies they are trying to follow are not clear to begin with. It is a question of efficiency and a sound policy execution.
Furthermore, it contributes to the public’s perception that Congress is out of touch with citizens. Accountability is a serious problem in our current political climate. While the average American does not spend every waking hour reading legislation, there is a sense that legislators aren’t always being straightforward with them.
Implementing this bill would slightly increase the workload for legislators and their staff; however, it would also improve their credibility before constituents. If changes to the text of amended bills are laid out in a clear and transparent fashion, it sends a signal to the American people that lawmakers are serious about being accountable to them for every decision they make.
The bill’s co-sponsors include House Freedom Caucus members such as Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), FreedomWorks’ congressman of the month for December 2016. This bill was originally intended to become effective January 3 of next year. Congress should aim to put this bill through before the current year ends or within the first 100 days of the next administration.
The Readable Legislation Act is an important piece of legislation that Congress can use to demonstrate that it values its democratic responsibilities of accountability and transparency. In an election year, where the people have voted for “drain the swamp,” this bill is a step in the right direction.