Back in February, MediaMouse.org reported on a campaign called “Read the Bill” that was calling for the passage of legislation that would require Congress to post bills online for 72 hours before voting on them. The legislation would allow time for members of Congress, the media (including bloggers and citizen journalists), and the public to review pending legislation. All too often, legislators vote on bills without ever taking the time to read them. This is especially true of more complex bills such as trade agreements and the economic stimulus bill passed earlier this year.
The Read the Bill coalition–which is endorsed by a number of different organizations–announced this week that legislation has been introduced in Congress that would require bills to be posted online 72 hours prior to them being voted on. The bill–H.R. 554–is co-sponsored by Reps. Baird (D-WA) and Culberson (R-TX).
The coalition cites a few examples of why this bill is needed:
- Most citizens would have supported amending the economic stimulus bill to remove the provision allowing AIG executives to receive retroactive bonuses – if only they had known.
- The average person probably would have preferred to let the judicial system work rather than have Congress give immunity from lawsuits to telecommunications companies that participated in a controversial wiretapping scheme.
- Workers hoping to retire on their 401(k) investments might have liked to have some serious analysis of whether credit default swaps ought to be regulated. We know how that worked out.
- And, just about everyone benefits from mandating time to check for questionable and wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars.
The Read the Bill coalition has setup an online system for contacting your legislators to ask them to both support and co-sponsor the bill in order to improve its chances of passing. Additionally, it is circulating a petition and is hoping to get 15,000 signatures before Congress’s August recess–you should add yours today.