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12/18/2006 - 4:11pm
New Consitutional Amendments
First, Congress has created new laws and regulations for decades without having the authority it needs to do so. For instance, nowhere in the Constitution does it allow Congress to create such entities as the FBI, CIA, DES, or Department of Homeland Security. In addition, acts such as the Patriot Act, Social Security, or the federal government's involvement in education is outside the scope of Congress' powers. (Whether or not these things should exist are outside the scope of this article; but only that Congress doesn't have the power to create them).
It seems the last few generations have simply accepted that the government can do whatever it wants whenever it wants by making a law that makes its actions legal. On the contrary, the powers of the US Congress (as well as the other branches) are explicitly spelled out in our Constitution. Anything not specified belongs to the states and the people.
Therefore, I propose that whenever the US Congress makes legislation that they be required to site the portion of the Constitution that gives them the power to do what they are proposing. This will have two effects. First, if they can't site anything giving them this power, then they simply can't write the law. Secondly, it allows for scrutiny, for the public to verify if Congress is empowered to make such legislation without individuals and organizations having to comb through the Constitution for each proposed bill.
And the second amendment relates to the creation of new laws. We all know of laws that are created that are either applicable at one point but later don't make sense, or laws made hastily in response to a traumatic event that seem like the right thing to do and are later known to be awful. Examples of these include old Arizona laws such as the law against allowing more than five girls to live together (in the 19th century "old west", this was anti-prostitution legislation), or the creation of various laws in response to 9/11 like the Patriot Act.
Therefore, I propose sunsets on all new laws. The sunset structure would work like this: A new law sunsets in five years and has to be renewed. If renewed, it sunsets again in 20 years. After this renewal, it becomes permanent unless removed. The times (five years, 20 years) are open to debate, but this system would allow bad laws to fall off relatively quickly, and outdated laws would fade away without any action being taken.
Now I know that there are really only two ways to create a new amendment. The first is for both houses in Congress to pass it with a two-third majority vote, at which point it goes to the states for ratification. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Congress would ever propose or agree to an amendment that would limit what they can do. The second method is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the state legislatures, and for them to propose an amendment which is approved by three-fourths of the states. This is the method more likely to be successful. However, the first method is the one used for all current amendments; the second has never been used.
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