There’s a lot of talk lately about how the House wasted time on some pointless reprimands, and consequently everything is behind schedule. However, this represents a small fraction of a much larger slice of time that gets wasted in every session, but especially in sessions — like the current one — where the legislative and executive branches are controlled by different parties.
I’m referring to time wasted on bills that are certain to be vetoed, and where a veto is certain to be sustained, but where the legislature insists on holding committee meetings and hearings, and debates in the House and Senate, in order to send a bill to the governor’s desk that is Dead On Arrival. An example of this would be HB-1608, ‘An act prohibiting the manufacture, sale, transfer, and possession of large capacity ammunition feeding devices’.
Every second spent on this bill is a second wasted. Every mile driven by activist to testify for or against it is several ounces of gasoline wasted, a mile of extra wear-and-tear on the roads, an increased opportunity for traffic accidents, time taken away from other productive and personal activities. Every time the bill is printed so it can be handed to committee members, or the press, or the full House or Senate, that’s a waste of paper, toner, and electricity. And so on.
Perhaps more importantly, the time and effort wasted on a bill like this erodes the belief that elected representatives are serious about the job of governing. How can they be, if they’re willing to reduce that job to putting on a series of small, pointless circus shows?
If the legislative branch is really serious about spending its time more wisely, it would do something like this:
Plan A (1) When the bills for a session are first available, they should be sent to the governor. (2) The governor should identify the ones that he would veto, then send that list to his party. (3) His party should remove any bills for which a veto might not be sustained, and send the reduced list to the opposing party. (4) That party can choose to quietly withdraw those bills, or — failing to do so — effectively announce that it intends to waste everyone’s time and effort on them.
That may require too much coordination, so what’s more likely, and more easily implemented, would be something like this:
Plan B When a bill like HB-1608 is first submitted, the governor should (1) identify it as a pre-emptive veto target, (2) check with the leadership of his party to make sure they’ll back his play, and if they will, (3) fill out and sign the veto form for the bill, leaving only the date to be filled in, and (4) post it publicly and prominently, as a notice to the people of the state of just what kinds of games their elected representatives are playing.
To those people who would say it’s worth passing a bill that’s certain to be vetoed, just to put the governor on record as being against it, I say: Go ahead! But why not do it efficiently, by going directly from bill announcement to veto, without burning up valuable time, energy, and other resources in between?
What any government needs is for the people being governed to, as Eric Cartman might put it, ‘respect my authoritah’. But the more time any government spends playing games with bills like HB-1608, the less likely its authoritah is to be respected by anyone. And that, more than wasted time, is the true cost of such games.