Honest Legislation

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In legislative procedure, a rider is an additional provision added to a bill or other measure under the consideration by a legislature, having little connection with the subject matter of the bill. Riders are usually created as a tactic to pass a controversial provision that would not pass as its own bill. Occasionally, a controversial provision is attached to a bill not to be passed itself but to prevent the bill from being passed (in which case it is called a wrecking amendment or poison pill).

Sneaking unrelated provisions into legislation is a dishonest tactic that should not be permitted. It exists both at the federal and state level. This petition seeks to change the legislative process by eradicating this bad practice. 

 Federal legislation

The use of riders is prevalent and customary in the Senate of the Congress of the United States, as the Senate's rules of germaneness are much more tolerant than those of the House of Representatives. In the House, riders are generally not allowed, as any amendment to a bill must deal with the substance of the bill under consideration.

 Riders are most effective when attached to an important bill, such as an appropriation bill, because to veto or postpone such a bill could delay funding to governmental programs, causing serious problems.

 When the veto is an all-or-nothing power as it is in the United States Constitution, the executive must either accept the riders or reject the entire bill. The practical consequence of the custom of using riders is to constrain the veto power of the executive.

 To counteract riders, 43 of the 50 U.S. states have provisions in their state constitutions allowing the use of line item vetos so that the executive can veto single objectionable items within a bill, without affecting the main purpose or effectiveness of the bill. In addition, the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 was passed to allow the President of the United States to veto single objectionable items within bills passed by Congress, but the Supreme Court struck down the act as unconstitutional in Clinton v. City of New York.

 Riders may be unrelated to the subject matter of bills to which they are attached and are commonly used to introduce unpopular provisions. For example, a rider to stop net neutrality was attached to a bill relating to military and veteran construction projects. Another rider has been the Hyde Amendment which since 1976 has been attached to Appropriation Bills to prevent Medicaid paying for most abortions. Another was the Boland Amendment in 1982 and 1983 to restrict financing of the Contras in Nicaragua.

 A recent notable example of a rider was in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. An amended version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 that was signed into law by Barack Obama only one week before, the amended bill included a rider for the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, whose student loan reform was completely unrelated to the broader bill's primary focus on health care reform.

 State legislation

Riders exist at the state level as well. A 2005 bill in West Virginia that was primarily focused on limiting the number of members that cities can appoint to boards of parks and recreation unexpectedly included a rider that made the English language the official language of the state of West Virginia. Most members of the West Virginia Legislature did not realize that the rider had been entered into the bill until it had already passed both state houses. Then-West Virginia governor Joe Manchin, although a personal supporter of the English-only movement, promptly vetoed the bill due to a provision in the Constitution of West Virginia that limits bills to one topic, which also makes riders de facto unconstitutional in West Virginia.

 Credit: Wikipedia

 Sign the petition to help us rid the legislative process of this dishonest tactic.



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