Legislative Waiting Periods Would Make Lame Duck Sessions Really Lame

March 10th, 2011

In my previous post on Black Swans I mentioned that one possible solution to preventing hasty legislation is to mandate legislative waiting periods–cooling off periods of sorts.

Let’s impose Legislative Waiting Periods. Before legislatures can pass laws, a legislative cooling off period should be in order. If people need cooling off periods before buying a gun and doing something stupid with it, legislatures should need a cooling off period before hastily ramming through a law. Any bill introduced in either house cannot be voted on for X months. If it’s that important, it can wait. If there is some type of exigency, emergency legislation can be passed right away, but it is only effective for Y days, and must be renewed by a supermajority every Z days (kind of like the War Powers Act). Frankly laws of this magnitude often take months, and even years to be implemented. There are countless rulemakings that need to occur. In some cases, waivers are given to delay any inconveniences for years. Waiting a few months before passing the bill won’t change anything. I’m sure with more deliberation time, the law can only be improved. Congress would be well served to move with all deliberate speed. (Yes we recognize the constitutional infirmities of this approach, but we’re just theorizing here.)

One possible implication (whether it is a negative or benefit I’m not quite sure yet) is that Lame Duck sessions may be unable to take any actions. Say for example that the waiting period is 2 months. An election occurs in November. Any bill introduced after the election could not be voted on until January, after the previous session concluded. That would render a lame duck congress truly lame.

From a game theory perspective, legislative waiting periods would create incentives to introduce bills before elections. This puts the electorate on notice of what the legislature actually intends on doing. No last minute surprise bills passed in the 11th hour this way. Also, legislative waiting periods will dis-encourage lame duck sessions from passing laws contrary to the wishes of the electorate. If it’s something the electorate wanted, Congress could just do it after the new session convenes.