Add To The Bill Of Rights?

An interesting piece by Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic asks “What would you add to the Bill of Rights?”

The responses were numerous, but most made mention of the right to privacy. I have a few of my own, some of which are near and dear to my heart. Here they are, in no specific order:

Repeal the 17th Amendment. Making the office of US Senator an elective office no different from that of the House of Representatives has made them nothing more than 'super-representatives'. Because they have to campaign they are as open to corruption as any other elected official. They no longer represent their states as was the case in the past. Instead they represent those who helped them get elected – the lobbyists for the special interests. Move the election of senators back to the state legislatures as it was in the beginning. It's time they started representing their states again.

Limit the power of the Commerce Clause. It shouldn't be able to be used as a club to force anyone to purchase some service or good. Heavier restrictions should also eliminate any possibility that it would be used to stifle intrastate commerce.

Eliminate unfunded mandates. This basically allows the states to tell the federal government to “piss off” if it tries to force the states to participate in some program that the state itself will be required to fund, even if it doesn't want to participate.

Enact a line-item veto. This will allow the president to veto bills in part or in whole. The “all-or-nothing” approach to vetoes has caused the failure of otherwise good legislation because of odious riders added to ensure a bill would be vetoed. If there is too much distrust of this, then limit it to budget bills only.

Strip federal agencies or departments of the ability make rules and regulations that go outside the enabling legislation. This would stop rogue agencies, like the EPA or Department of Education, from enacting regulations that have not gone under congressional review or that are, on the face of it, unconstitutional.

Those are the most serious changes I would like to see enacted. Here are a few more that might actually make things better, even though they may seem facetious or trivial.

Shorten the time Congress is allowed to be in session each year. At the moment Congress is in session almost year round. This makes it too easy for the Congresscritters to propose and pass legislation that makes it look like their actually doing something. But most bills are fluff, paybacks, graft, or otherwise useless and expensive legislation that merely adds greater burdens to the taxpayers. Limit the maximum time Congress can be in session to 4 calendar months, breaking it up to 2 months in the spring and two months in the fall. Most truly important legislation can be taken care of in those 4 months.

Ban heating and air-conditioning in the Capitol Building and all Congressional offices. This ties in with the proposal above by making it too uncomfortable for the Congresscritters and their staffs to remain in Washington except in the spring and fall. That means they can go back to their home states for eight months of the year and keep in touch with their constituents. It also means they have less time to get into trouble.

Create a means of reviewing all laws and regulations and “sunsetting” them if they are no longer relevant. This will help get rid of laws and regulations that conflict with others or that no longer apply. (This would likely chop the existing tax code from thousands of pages to less than a dozen....maybe.)

I could go on and on, but I'd like to retain a few for future posts on the subject.