Should elected officials be required to read bills before voting?

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MissyJ's picture
Joined: 01/31/02
Posts: 3212
Should elected officials be required to read bills before voting?

This particular news article was about a local TX board's vote on reparations but this debate question is for ALL levels of government. Within the article, the officials later stated they did not read the resolution before voting... the same thing we (too often) hear from lawmakers / bills in Washington.

Texas board unwittingly approves reparations for slavery

Do you believe that elected officials should be required to read what they are voting on?

(P.S. If you wish to debate the pros/cons on reparations please start a new debate.)

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

Yes, I do believe that elected officials should either read, or have someone on their staff read bills that they are voting on.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

Sounds logical.....I wonder how practical it actually is. I know that sounds like crazy talk, but I honestly do wonder how practical it really is.

Of course we could just get a whole lot less done...but I bet people would be unhappy about that too.

I'm guessing this is a rock and hard place issue.

MissyJ's picture
Joined: 01/31/02
Posts: 3212

Kim,

I would even feel better if at LEAST someone on their staff (that I'm perhaps wrongfully assuming would support their pov) could read. I still have issues wrapping my head around the fact that too often that few appear to actually KNOW what the heck they are voting on. This is not even about one political party or another as all seem to have adopted this practice. Then we seem to have accepted the excuse of "Oh, I didn't know... or I didn't have time to read" vs. demanding accountability for the votes cast. Why is it more often becoming the norm that we will find out what a bill (or in this case a resolution) is AFTER the fact?

Yes, agree that we would likely 'accomplish' less but maybe that would help all levels of government prioritize better.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

If the bills are so long and wordy that even an aid does not have time to read them and summarise them, than that is what needs to be changed. It is ridiculous that someone could stick something in the middle of a 2,000 bill that said that a small farming town was to get 2 billion dollars and it is voted on before anyone realised it is there.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

To be sure: you've read every word of your lease, mortgage docs, divorce decree, gym membership, car rental, tou for all of your website accounts, etc.

Or did you agree (either by signature or clicking the "I agree" box) based on what you *thought* was in it? Later you may realize it wasn't what you thought.

Actually, no, I think we've elected people to do a job, and if we don't think they are doing that job, we should vote them out. Many bills are too long. But should we break them down into separate bills? With the process it goes through , would this be a waste of time? I mean, Apple offered you the opportunity to read all of the tou, should they break it into 500 paragraphs that you have to agree to individually? Just like my English teacher could require reading certain books doesn't mean I did. How can you enforce it ?

LOL
snopes.com: Texas Legislature de Salvo Resolution

MissyJ's picture
Joined: 01/31/02
Posts: 3212

Ok - I actually agree that I'm likely an exception but yes -- I've learned the need to read the 'fine print'. Does that mean that I may miss something still? Sure... but particularly in legal matters I think it is incredibly important to know what the heck I'm signing or else I really don't have any room to complain later.

For the huge bills, as I shared, I'd feel better if they even assigned staff to help read through and give a summary on their assigned section. (Again - this would be with the belief that those on their political staff tend to share their pov.)

As for your English teacher example -- ours tested on assigned reading to ensure it was done. Wink

Seriously, I *do* know that many get bogged down in all the pages upon pages of legalese... but -- imho -- that IS their job to do. Yes, we can vote them out of office but unless the mindset of accepting "Oh I didn't know" or "I didn't have time to read" gets changed we won't see a difference. It wouldn't be accepted in my work, in my kids' education or in an attorney I hired. I guess I just struggle to understand how we now seem to accept it from our elected officials.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

So I'm assuming it is the opinion of people here that the existing staff of these people have enough time to consume the job of reading thousands of pages of bills that they are not reading as of now?

This is just one of those things that sounds great on paper and I have this feeling that if we were actually going to enforce it(if that were possible) people would experience the consequences and then be like "oh gosh forget it, lets go back to the way things were"

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"KimPossible" wrote:

So I'm assuming it is the opinion of people here that the existing staff of these people have enough time to consume the job of reading thousands of pages of bills that they are not reading as of now?

This is just one of those things that sounds great on paper and I have this feeling that if we were actually going to enforce it(if that were possible) people would experience the consequences and then be like "oh gosh forget it, lets go back to the way things were"

There is no need to make them so many pages that they can not be read. That would have to be fixed first, but yes, I think at least someone should be reading them.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"MissyJ" wrote:

Ok - I actually agree that I'm likely an exception but yes -- I've learned the need to read the 'fine print'. Does that mean that I may miss something still? Sure... but particularly in legal matters I think it is incredibly important to know what the heck I'm signing or else I really don't have any room to complain later.

Reading it and comprehending it don't necessarily go together. Honestly, I don't have time to read word for word all of the credit card inserts, changes, TOU for all the websites, etc. When I rented an apartment, I knew the lease inside and out. I also know my work contract in great detail. The 426 pages of the SDSU catalog - nope.

For the huge bills, as I shared, I'd feel better if they even assigned staff to help read through and give a summary on their assigned section. (Again - this would be with the belief that those on their political staff tend to share their pov.)

How is "helping read through" and giving a summary any different than it is now? When I go to the polls, I read the summary of many of the propositions, but not the entire text of the proposition. Some are just way too wordy to pore over.

As for your English teacher example -- ours tested on assigned reading to ensure it was done. Wink

Yep, we had tests too; didn't ensure the reading was done. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, a lot of the stuff was beyond my comprehension level at the time.

Seriously, I *do* know that many get bogged down in all the pages upon pages of legalese... but -- imho -- that IS their job to do. Yes, we can vote them out of office but unless the mindset of accepting "Oh I didn't know" or "I didn't have time to read" gets changed we won't see a difference. It wouldn't be accepted in my work, in my kids' education or in an attorney I hired. I guess I just struggle to understand how we now seem to accept it from our elected officials.

Well, I guess if we want Congress to get even less done.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

There is no need to make them so many pages that they can not be read. That would have to be fixed first, but yes, I think at least someone should be reading them.

I'm not sure I agree. Many of the propositions I've voted on cover multiple aspects of a single issue. If you can write one thing that covers 10 different issues, why break it down?

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

I'm not sure I agree. Many of the propositions I've voted on cover multiple aspects of a single issue. If you can write one thing that covers 10 different issues, why break it down?

So that the person voting knows what they are voting on. We would never accept it if we went to vote on the next POUS and the ballets were illegible or too long to read.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

There is no need to make them so many pages that they can not be read.

What are you basing this opinion on? Curious.

ETA: For the record, i'm not saying I know either way if all those pages are necessary or not. The fact is, I'm rather ignorant about what makes them so big. But that was one of my main reasons for asking. If you know they are unnecessarily big and what's in them that makes them that way, I'd like to know too!

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"KimPossible" wrote:

What are you basing this opinion on? Curious.

ETA: For the record, i'm not saying I know either way if all those pages are necessary or not. The fact is, I'm rather ignorant about what makes them so big. But that was one of my main reasons for asking. If you know they are unnecessarily big and what's in them that makes them that way, I'd like to know too!

If they are so big that not one single person has read it, then it is too big regardless of the reason of why it is so big.