Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Consider the Bill: OSTA

I just joined OpenCongress.org to keep track of what's going on in this country by paying attention to what Congress is actually doing. There is a lot to do on this site. You can read the actual content of the bill, read news and blogs related to it, read comments from fellow citizens, connect with like-minded folk, vote on bills, check and compare voting records, connect with your representatives and senators, and track and share information that pertains to your interests.

While perusing, I came across OSTA (H.R. 3806: One Subject at a Time Act). The purpose of this act follows its own guidelines by covering only one subject and making that subject clear in the title. On face value this is a piece of legislation that the people have been wanting for a long time.

Congress has a problem with this and the people are getting sick of it. Senators and representatives will tack on completely unrelated legislation, called riders, in order to sneak changes into law that should have gone through their own process but would probably not succeed on their own. Sometimes these riders are even attached for the purpose of killing a bill that would otherwise pass.

The current system serves no one. Both sides of the aisle have times when allowing these riders will destroy work that they have done to promote what they believe to be the best for the country and for their constituents. It really isn't worth the periodic perks to have such a broken system.

That said, I am a little concerned about a couple of points related OSTA. Firstly, there is the clause "...and for other purposes" which concludes the introduction. By the rules of the OSTA itself there should be no other purposes. Secondly, the term "subject" is not well-defined. This may be why we have not yet passed this legislation, but it is a problem to consider. Despite this flaw, having only one subject would be a great step forward. Even if the subject scope were too broad like a hypothetical "Transportation Act," at least the American people would know that everything in the bill pertained to transportation. While not perfect, I believe that it would be a step in the right direction.

I encourage my senators and representative to support OSTA unless they have ideas for how to mitigate its flaws in which case I encourage them to take the time to craft a better bill with the same driving sentiment that is felt by so many Americans.