NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Imposing a Single Subject Rule on Federal Legislation

October 27, 2014

Americans have become used to the laws that come out of Congress -- bills are massive and can reach thousands of pages, making reading them all but impossible. Plus, they seem to cover just about any topic, with a number of unrelated riders and amendments that politicians squeeze into larger bills in order to pass unpopular legislation or get benefits for their own constitutions.

But what if that weren't allowed? Brett Joshpe, an attorney with Joshpe Law Group in New York City, suggests that federal legislation be subject to a "single-subject" requirement, which would restrict logrolling and ensure that all of a bill's provisions are relevant.

Such requirements are popular in many states, explains Joshpe, and New York and others have single-subject restrictions in their state constitutions. His own law firm is representing a plaintiff who is currently engaged in litigation against New York City. The city's Smoke Free Air Act (SFAA) was aimed at limiting second-hand smoke in public places. When the city recently amended the SFAA to ban electronic cigarettes, the plaintiff sued, alleging the amendment was a new subject, unrelated to the subject of the SFAA.

Joshpe contends a federal single-subject rule would bring much-needed transparency to the legislative process. While it would undoubtedly lead to debate over what exactly constitutes a subject, he argues that "constraints on Congress are desperately needed."

Source: Brett Joshpe, "How about a federal single subject rule?" Washington Examiner, October 24, 2014.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues