Jones: Empirical (qualitative) study of whether legislators read and understand legislation

Dr. Brian Christopher Jones of Institutum Iurisprudentiae, Academia Sinica, has posted Don’t Be Silly: Lawmakers ‘Rarely’ Read Legislation and Oftentimes Don’t Understand it . . . But That’s Okay, Penn Statim, 118(7), 7-21 (2013).

Here is the abstract:

During the debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the reading and understanding of legislation became one of the most controversial issues mentioned in Congress and throughout the media. This led many to state that lawmakers should “read the bill,” and led one academic to propose a read-the-bill rule for Congress, where legislators would not vote or vote “no” if they had not read the full text of the legislation. My essay argues that in contemporary legislatures such proposals are unfeasible, and would ultimately produce lower quality legislation. In doing so, the piece uses interviews with legislative insiders (lawmakers, staffers, legal and political journalists) from Congress, Westminster, and the Scottish Parliament to demonstrate that the reading and understanding of legislation are highly overvalued. Additionally, it dispels the notion that the reading and understanding of legislation are larger legislative process or constitutional problems.

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