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What you need to know for 12/11/2017

Editorial: Process for passing important legislation fails all citizens

Editorial: Process for passing important legislation fails all citizens

Amendments were added at last minute faster than legislators could keep track of them
Editorial: Process for passing important legislation fails all citizens
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) with fellow Republicans before a news conference on the tax bill on Capitol Hill.
Photographer: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

It was a case of bleary-eyed, exhausted lawmakers trying to digest pages of legislation they weren’t given time to read.

There was little, if any, public debate.

Amendments were added at the last minute faster than legislators could keep track of them.

RELATED: Republicans sought to undercut unfavorable analysis of tax plan

Rank-and-file members from both parties were kept in the dark about the final text of the legislation until just before they were asked to vote on it.

And when the vote was finally held, it was in the middle of the night, too late for journalists to make their deadlines and far later than most citizens usually stay up.

This is a horrible way for government to pass important legislation. The process isn’t transparent, it doesn’t allow for deliberative thought or advance preparation, and it deprives our representatives of having any substantive input into legislation that affects millions of people.

Wait, we are taking about the Republicans in Congress and their tax plan, right?

Well, yes. But we could just as easily have written the above paragraphs about the end of the state legislative session. In fact, we have. Numerous times.

The way the U.S. Senate crammed through its hastily prepared and potentially damaging tax bill is exactly how the New York state government ends its legislative session every spring.

The same last-minute flurry of legislation. The same lack of debate and discussion. The same late-night antics that prevent the public and the media from viewing the process in real time.

And despite how often we write about the process and how much we all complain, there’s never any legitimate attempt to amend it to, say, require more debate or allow lawmakers and their staffs enough time to read and comprehend the bills.

There’s never any suggestion that they hold the final votes when people not living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean are actually awake.

There’s never any consideration for the role of journalists, whose job it is to make sense of what’s done and to convey that to the public in a complete and timely manner.

The only reason for elected representatives to pass legislation this way is to hide its contents and effects from the people they represent.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot and many of their own constituents are getting hurt by the federal tax bill passed in such an unfair, maybe New York lawmakers will realize the error of their ways and change the way they do business.

More likely, though, they’ll realize from the federal example that this process works just the way they want it to.

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