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Inbox-Senator Allard Follow-up-Frank Fannon-Laws & Scrutiny

12:43 PM, Sep 27, 2007   |    comments
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QUESTON:

Why is it that various totally unrelated pieces of legislation get tied together under a title that is rather vanilla/unobtrusive with the result being that laws/programs get passed without ever really seeing the light of day nor the scrutiny each should be given? Wouldn't it be more open and honest to the constituency if each law is viewed on its own merits?

Frank Fannon


ANSWER:

Yes. It would be more open and honest to the constituency if each law was viewed on its own merits.

Sometimes this practice of attaching unrelated pieces of legislation is done deliberately to shield legislation from scrutiny. Sometimes it is done for convenience because another piece of legislation is already "moving." The worst cases are the "omnibus" appropriations legislation that inevitably appears at the end of the year, where thousands of pages of language and billions of dollars of spending are grouped into one enormous bill that no one can read through its entirety. In these cases, we have to rely on our staff's expertise in their various areas, and the previous work of the Senate, to give as thorough a review as possible. The Senate this year has not yet passed any of the 12 annual appropriation bills into law, so we are likely looking at one of these ominous "omnibus" bills again this fall.

I would prefer having up or down votes on individual legislation, but the history and practice of the Senate has shown our best hope is to minimize this practice as much as possible, rather than hope for is abolition.

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