Thursday, August 11, 2016

Legislation by Litigation

Pop quiz: Is Wisconsin's Voter ID Law currently in full effect?  When you went to the polls on Tuesday for the primary election, the answer was "Yes".  Everyone had to show a legal ID to get a ballot.  But when you woke up on Wednesday, a ruling by Federal Judge Lynn Adelman had gone into effect, where if someone who wanted to vote in the November general election didn't have legal ID, they could just sign an affidavit swearing to their identity--and then they could vote.  However, by lunchtime yesterday, a Federal Appeals Court issued a stay on Judge Adelman's ruling--meaning full voter ID is back in effect for November--unless the Appeals Court issues a final ruling before ballots are printed--in which case, a totally different set of rules may apply.

If you're my age you may recall learning about how laws are made this way:

But today, that is NOT how laws are made.  Yes, legislative bodies approve measures and executives sign them--but now many new laws are immediately challenged in court--sometimes before they can actually go into effect (even though the law holds in most cases that aggrieved parties have to show that they have actually been harmed by a law rather than just thinking they might be harmed by a law).

And it's not just laws that are constantly being challenged in court, it's executive orders and even voter-approved Constitutional amendments.  And it leads to the on-again, off-again status of regulations, requirements and even civil rights that make our country look like a banana republican that doesn't know how to govern.

So here's an idea: let's just have every proposed bill, order and amendment go through litigation before anybody votes on it or signs it?  Yes, it could take years and even decades to do that--but it will at least ensure that once a law goes into effect--it stays in effect.  If a state bill upsets liberals, the challenge can be filed in Dane County.  Conservatives can file their challenges in Waukesha County courts.  Federal challenges can go to San Francisco for liberals and Texas for conservatives.  And then the long process of appeals and further appeals can go on until even the most innocuous measure goes before the Supreme Court of the United States for the final legal challenge.  (The only fly in the ointment is that due to Senate filibuster or just plain inaction, all of the Supreme Court Justices and Federal Court Judges will have retired or died by that time--and there will be no one to hear the cases)

But at least then--and only then--"Bill" can start sitting on Capitol Hill.  And once he signs you, Bill, you really will be a law--instead of the first step in a confusing, expensive legal battle.

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