Rafael DeGennaro’s blog

Democrats finally stumble on pensions bill

By Rafael DeGennaro, January 28, 2007 – 1:22am.

AP’s Jim Abrams has a story that House Republicans are complaining about unfair process.

Most of the focus among both Republicans and the media seems to focus on the whether the minority gets to offer floor amendments, perhaps because the Democratic majority has been worst there. But the Democrats allowed a reasonable amount of time to read H.R. 1 through H.R. 6, the first 100 hours bills. It was only with the pensions bill that they stumbled. Here’s was AP said:

Utah Legislature Republican creates Politicopia legislative wiki

By Rafael DeGennaro, January 22, 2007 – 6:54pm.

Hey U.S. Congress, check it out!
Steve Urquhart, Republican chairman of the Utah House of Representatives Rules Committee, announced Jan. 21, 2007 that he was creating a legislative wiki called: Politicopia.

He writes that:

Politicopia joins the revolution to improve people’s ability to understand and control their government. Politicopia starts with three simple notions.

1. People need more control over government.
2. Insiders have too much control over government.
3. The Internet will disintermediate government.

Sen. Cornyn files amendment #27 to S. 1

By Rafael DeGennaro, January 11, 2007 – 2:28pm.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) spoke on the Senate floor around noon today, Thur., Jan. 11 on his new amendment #27 to S. 1. ReadtheBill.org endorses (letter in PDF format) the substance of this amendment, which would prohibit floor consideration of legislation and conference reports before senators and the public had more time to read them. If implemented in Senate rules, this Cornyn amendment would be a significant improvement over current Senate rules, and over Senate practice during the 109th Congress.

As proposed, S. 1 would amend Senate rule XXVIII to prohibit consideration of conference reports before they have been publicly available online for 48 hours. S. 1 would improve on current Senate rules. However, S. 1 would NOT cover legislative measures or matters on their first consideration by the Senate (as opposed to final conference reports). This is a major failing of S. 1. It’s crucial to find and fix questionable provisions early in the legislative process. By the time a bill emerges from conference committee in its final form, it can be too late to fix even its worst provisions.

Speaker Pelosi embraces "three-day layover" requirement

By Rafael DeGennaro, January 9, 2007 – 3:50pm.

On Tues., Jan. 8, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to the “three-day layover” given so members could read the bills. This is very good.

It may be the first time that she’s been quoted in the news media using this phrase in the last year. It certainly represents an evolution. For the last year, Pelosi’s stock promise has been to allow “24 hours to read conference reports”, a formulation that comes from the Democrats’ “Honest and Open Government Plan” released in early 2006. ReadtheBill.org never liked that phrase, in part because it is less than the three days required by House rules. Pelosi deserves credit for talking about the “three day layover” yesterday and even more credit for giving members three days to read the bills so far. Here’s the quote:

Democratic bills available in timely way so far

By Rafael DeGennaro, January 8, 2007 – 1:43pm.

How available are the texts of the bills that House Democrats plan to pass during the first 100 hours? None of the first four bills will be considered by the House before the “third calendar day” after they’re made available to members and the public. That’s surprisingly good for the first 100 hours.

Availability of several of the bills is good. The texts of the following bills were available on THOMAS when I checked on Sun., Jan 7 at noon Eastern Time (the bills were probably available sooner; that’s just when I checked): H.R. 2 — minimum wage; H.R. 3 — embryonic stem cell research; H.R. 4 — prescription drug price negotiation. All three are very short, rifle-shot bills that deal with one topic. The same goes for H.Res. 35, a resolution to establish a new Select Intelligence Oversight Panel. None will be considered on the House floor before Wed., Jan. 10, which qualifies as the “third calendar day” after the bills became available.

First 100 hours must be moment of exuberance, not two-year habit

By Rafael DeGennaro, January 4, 2007 – 4:31pm.

The new House Democratic majority will maintain the existing House three-day rule and has pledged to depart from recent Republican practice of routinely waiving it. But Democrats will start the new era only after passing House Democrats’ “first 100 hours” agenda under short cut procedures. Under these, it appears that several bills may be considered by the House without first being available for three days.

House Democrats take a calculated risk in placing product above process. Yes, Democrats won a majority in the House after 12 years in the wilderness of minority status. Some hours of temporary exuberance are to be expected. The danger is that passing bills without adequate time to read them may become a two-year habit. The challenge will be ending the first 100 hours and shifting gears to enforce the three-day rule.

House Democratic rules package holds the line

By Rafael DeGennaro, January 3, 2007 – 8:15pm.

House Democrats in Congress appear to have maintained current House rules regarding availability of legislation. The 17-page H.Res. 6 amends the standing rules of the House. But it contains no explicit amendment to the existing House rules on availability of legislation. This means there will be no change in the House three-day rule that prohibits consideration of any committee-reported bill or conference report until the “third calendar day” after it’s been made available to members. H.Res. 6 would close some loopholes in related rules pertaining to the text of conference reports (see below).

Rocky Mtn News: Allow 72 hours to review tax breaks

By Rafael DeGennaro, December 6, 2006 – 1:42pm.

The Rocky Mountain News editorializes in favor of 72 hours to review new tax breaks.

Rocky Mountain News
Denver, Dec. 3, 2006,

[snip]
Moreover, [Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron] Wyden has a promising idea to keep any new tax plan from immediately being riddled with loopholes and complications. He wants to adopt the tactics of the “porkbusters,” and subject tax breaks to public scrutiny, much as critics of congressional earmarks want better oversight of spending bills.

Legislation that requires new tax breaks to be published online 72 hours before they’re voted on, for instance, would give the public time to react to them before passage. It should make it tougher to muck up a streamlined tax code.

Democratically-controlled NY State Assembly resists disclosure

By Rafael DeGennaro, December 5, 2006 – 4:15pm.

At the state level, New York remains very bad. The Democratically-controlled New York State Assembly continues to resist full disclosure of how $85 million per year was spent on thousands of local pork-barrel spending projects. Forced by a court to release the list of projects, the Assembly did so in a way that is not usable.

$85 Million Listed for Legislators’ Pet Projects
New York Times, Nov. 28, 2006, p. B1

The New York State Assembly made public its full list of legislative projects late Monday afternoon, giving taxpayers the clearest view yet of how lawmakers have spent $85 million a year on thousands of local initiatives that criticis have derided as pork-barrel spending.

Read the mobile phone bill 2

By Rafael DeGennaro, June 1, 2006 – 9:01pm.

Back on May 2, I wrote about how our organization’s cell phone bill did not include the $50 credit promised for the second, monthly bill. At the time, we were promised it would appear on the mid-May bill, and be raised to $75 for our trouble. Well, it wasn’t there. When I contacted the reseller, he gave me the same vague promises of someday. Then, after emails, phone calls and some yelling, he got the $75 credit processed in one day.

This is how most Americans live — reading their bills, catching problems and saving a few bucks here and there. Why is it normal in Washington, D.C. for Congress to pass a thousand-page bill that costs hundreds of billions of dollars without anyone properly reading it?

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