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Unnecessary Length and Complexity of Laws

 

Our laws are far too long and complex.  It is estimated that income tax laws cover over 75,000 pages.  The reasons range from incompetence, the desire to hide gifts to special interests in a thicket of garbage, to a penchant for unnecessarily prescribing detail.  It hasn't always been as bad as it is now.  The Glass Steagall Act which kept our banks sound from 1933 to its unfortunate repeal in 1999 was 37 pages.  The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was 31 pages.  But, the Dodd Frank Act which partially reinstated the Glass Steagall Act was 848 pages.

Bills/laws should be written in simple and concise language.  Congress should employ a central pool of technical writers who would rewrite all bills submitted to produce the most simple and straight forward language meeting the intent of the bill.  They should produce an executive summary of the bill.  This pool should be managed by an independent (or at least bipartisan) group and maintain honest broker standards.  

The legislative process should be open and honest.  We must end the secretive insertion of  earmarks and other special interest provisions by Congressional staff members.  Congressmen cast their vote unaware of such provisions.  To solve this problem, all bills before Congress should be under document configuration control from first draft on.  Standard document configuration management software (currently available) should maintain all versions of the bill and document all changes.  Change documentation should include the specific changes in language, a statement of the intent of the change, date, time, and person making the change.  

For long bills, there should be a delay of at least a day before voting on a bill during which no changes may be made.

The legislative process should be open to the public and the press.  All pending bills should be published on the internet along with the document configuration management data.  This will facilitate and encourage public and press participation in the legislative process.

As new laws are considered, related existing laws should be reviewed and provisions rescinded and replaced with more simple and concise language.

As an indication of the growing problem, page counts of major financial legislation include the following:  Federal Reserve Act 1913) 31 pages, Glass Steagall Act (1933) 37 pages,  Interstate Banking Efficiency Act (1994) 61 pages,  Sarbanes Oxley Act (2002) 66 pages, Gramm Leach Bliley Act (1999) 145 pages, and the Dodd Frank Bill (2010) 848 pages.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is 904 pages (not the 2000 plus that its opponents repeatedly say but still long).