A recent tweet by Representative Justin Amash bemoans the bundling of unrelated provisions into bills.
But how do we prevent this kind of abuse? How can we legally stipulate the legal separation of distinct provisions? Who gets to be the arbiter of what counts as distinct?
I propose a novel solution: scored variants. It works like this.
- Every time a bill is introduced, its text is treated as one of two variants (versions), the other being the status quo.
- Any other legislator may introduce a separate variant, to be considered alongside the original proposal as well as the status quo variant.
- Legislators may cast scores for these variants on a scale like 0–5. By default, their scores begin at the max for the status quo, and the min for every new variant, until they change them. They may change their scores as often as they like.
- The moment any variant has more total points that the status quo, it becomes the new law, and the entire package of variants is discarded.
This is actually a very simple procedure, but it solves some historical challenges. For one, if she feels that a bill is too bloated with unrelated provisions, a legislator may propose a stripped down variant for consideration instead. The procedure also eliminates poison pill amendments, which work by deliberately creating a Condorcet cycle (propose a new amendment that will defeat the proposal but lose a head-to-head vote against the status quo, to effectively kill the original proposal which would pass against the status quo).
This procedure also eliminates the need for exploitable time constraints in calling for a vote. Legislators may vote at any point they choose, and the bill automatically passes the moment any variant beats the status quo. There are no artificial time constraints.