Have you ever sat down to read a Congressional bill? Probably not. They are difficult to understand, use bureaucratic language and are generally unreadable. So it’s no wonder that most of us don’t have the inclination to pick up a bill and read through it. But this lack of understanding is creating a void between the public and politicians.
- Cut-and-Bite Amendments: Many jurisdiction around the world use the cut-and-bite approach to amending, also known as amendments by reference. This includes Congress. There is no context to this amendment. In order to understand this amendment, someone is going to have to go look up Section 1234 of the Labor Code and manually make apply the change to see what it is all about.
- Amendments Set Out in Full: The cut-and-bite style of amending, is simply disallowed. Instead, all amendments must be set out in full – by re-enacting the section in full as amended. This is mandated by Article 4, section 9 of the California Constitution. The wording of the section, as amended, is set out in full. It’s clear and much more transparent.
- Amendments in Context:
There is an even better approach – which is adopted to varying degrees by a few legislatures. It is to build on the approach of setting out sections in full, but adds a visible indication of what has changed using strike and insert notation. I’ll refer to this as Amendments in Context. This problem is partially addressed, at the federal level, by the Ramseyer Rule which requires that a separate document be published which essentially does shows all amendments in context. The problem is that this second document isn’t generally available – and it’s yet another separate document.
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