May 8, 2007
Congress, April 30-May 5
By James Wilson
The good news that Congress passed very few bills last week: the House just four, the Senate none. The bad news is that these four bills total 276 pages, making it unlikely their supporters actually read them. (Tell Congress to read the bills they pass by clicking here.) Moreover, the titles of the bills tell us what is wrong with them: H.R. 1429 -Improving Head Start Act - 192 pages H.R. 1867 - National Science Foundation Authorization Act - 34 pages H.R. 1592 - Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act - 14 pages H.R. 1868 - Technology Innovation and Manufacturing Stimulation Act - 36 pages These bills provide for federal interference in (and funding of) education, science & technology, crime control, and business. The Constitution does not authorize any of this, and even if it did, these bills are still unwise. The more heavily involved the federal government has been in education, the worse it has become. That’s because education (as well as poverty, which Head Start also addresses) is best addressed at the local, family, and individual levels. And the best way to improve science and American economic competitiveness is by repealing regulations and cutting taxes - that is, to create a free market in goods and ideas. A special note about H.R. 1592, the Hate Crimes bill. We oppose this bill. We oppose all federal intervention in crime control, which the Constitution reserves to the states and the people. We read several articles explaining what the bill could do, such as put pastors in prison for the conduct of members in their congregations. And had we the time, staff, and resources, we would have joined with many others who were campaigning against it. But in the end, the bill doesn’t go that far. In between the bill’s introduction and its passage, a clause was added:
SEC. 8. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION. Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.
This means an individual can, for example, preach that the Bible treats homosexuality as a sin, without being held liable if a listener proceeds to commit violence against a gay person. The uproar surrounding this legislation likely had an impact for this provision to be included. While we still oppose federal intervention in crime control and would be better off without it, at least now this bill is not as bad as it could have been. Which goes to show that public pressure works. publishes this feature on weeks when Congress is in session. To see how your represenatives voted on particular bills, or to read the bills themselves, go here for the House and here for the Senate. You may also keep abreast of day-to-day activities in Congress by going to the Congressional Record Main Page and click for recent issues of the Daily Digest.
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