Posts Tagged ‘legislature’

April 10 roundup

Critics call Kansas legislative process opaque

“Kansas’ legislative process is among the least transparent in the country, often cutting the public out of debates and making it difficult for constituents to track bills, let alone determine who sponsored them.” A popular tactic is the “gut-and-go,” in which a bill is sent to the floor with its original content deleted and unrelated matter substituted, which can result in the bringing to a quick floor vote of legislation that has bypassed the committee hearing process and public attention. The maneuver turns up in some other states as well, under nicknames like “gut and stuff” and “gut and amend.”

Also: “In Kansas, unlike most other states, nearly all the laws passed stem from bills whose authors are anonymous. All but six of the 104 bills that became law this year — a whopping 94 percent — were introduced by committees, with no sponsors identified. That means Kansans don’t know who pushed the measures and why.” [Judy L. Thomas and Bryan Lowry, Kansas City Star]

“The £400,000 comma”

Is it a true story? It is at the least a widely circulated old story that many persons would have been in a position to correct if untrue. Here is a 1928 version [via Jot 101]

Solicitors in their private practice have evolved a language of their own, which weird though it may be, is seldom open to the reproach of obscurity. Very wisely they discard punctuations almost completely. They know that the omission or use of a comma in a legal document can be dangerous. A comma once cost the United States Government £400,000. It was nearly fifty years ago that the United States Congress in drafting a Tariff Bill enumerated in one section the articles to be left free of duty. Amongst these were “all foreign fruit-plants”. The copying clerk in his wisdom removed the hyphen and substituted for it a comma, making the clause read “all foreign fruit, plants, etc.” It took a year to rectify the error, and during that period all oranges, bananas, grapes, and other foreign fruits were admitted free of duty with the big loss to the State already mentioned…

Here’s another reference to the story, and many more can be found at this search.

Alabama: state judge enjoins legislature from sending education bill to governor

Can courts even do that? Both houses of the Alabama legislature passed a measure called House Bill 84 revamping education policy; the state teachers’ union, the Alabama Education Association, went to court with a challenge; and Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price issued an injunction forbidding the Clerk of the House from enrolling the bill for the signature of Gov. Robert Bentley, who has said he would sign it. The AEA argued that lawmakers violated the state Open Meetings Act in the course of bringing the bill to passage. Republican lawmakers are appealing the judge’s action to the state supreme court; presumably they’ll argue for the old principle that equity will not enjoin legislative acts, even if it can enjoin legislation from taking effect once it is signed. [WAFF, more] Further: some background on the education bill from Jeff Poor at the Daily Caller.

Blue-ribbon excuses: shoplifting California lawmaker

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward), who chairs the Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection, has “pleaded no contest to charges that she tried to walk off with $2,500 in clothes.” [L.A. Times via Amy Alkon] “Hayashi spokesman Sam Singer has called the incident ‘a mistake and a misunderstanding.'” [Dublin Patch, KGO] “Hayashi’s attorney, Douglas Rappaport, told reporters that the lawmaker is taking medication for a benign brain tumor and that the ailment may have been responsible for her behavior.” But that doesn’t mean she’ll be taking a medical leave from her duties: according to her attorney, the tumor “is being treated with medication and no longer affects her,” reports the Sacramento Bee, which continues in a skeptical vein: “Medical experts said Monday that it is very rare, however, for a brain tumor that does not require surgery to influence behavior so significantly.” “I am confident that with the close of these proceedings, she will continue to ably serve her constituents with the same talent and passion she has displayed throughout her time in office,” wrote Assembly Speaker John Pérez in a supportive statement.

Lowering the Bar “Best of 2009”

Kevin Underhill rounds up four amusing miscellanies at his excellent site. From the fourth:

In June, a committee of the Oregon Legislature stuck some language into a bill that would (I think) have briefly redefined “no” as “yes.” Allegedly, Democrats were trying to head off an initiative they feared Republicans would later put on the ballot, asking voters to reject a spending measure. The bill provided that a vote to reject the measure would be counted as a vote to adopt it:

A measure referred to the people by referendum petition may not be adopted unless it receives an affirmative majority of the total votes cast on the measure rejecting the measure. For purposes of this subsection, a measure is considered adopted if it is rejected by the people.

The bill was amended again a few days later to remove the controversial language, after it became public.

P.S. And another installment missed above (“We are all tarnished by your stupidity.”)

Divorce law in the Northeast

Prompted by our post of yesterday about Virginia lawyer-legislators, commenter Hans Bader at his own blog nominates New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey as examples of how bad matrimonial law can get: “the more lawyers are in a state legislature, the more unfair a state’s divorce laws tend to be”. (OpenMarket.org., Jan. 2). Plus: our family law archives are here.