A 10-point government action checklist

All government legislation and action should be debated with reason and objectivity, rather than spurred by the need to “do something” or argued with emotion.

I usually evaluate legislation in a simple three-step approach: 1. Is it constitutional? 2. Will it solve the problem (and will it create new problems)? and 3. Can we afford it?

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has come up with a more comprehensive, 10-point “Government Action Checklist” to evaluate new laws and government action in a research paper, “Keep Their Feet to the Fire: The Citizen’s Checklist for Legislative Behavior” (12/12/11). Let’s keep these points in mind during the up-coming legislative session:

1. Is it necessary? Government action is not always the answer.

2. Has there been a realistic and unbiased examination of the probable consequences of the action, including social, cultural, and financial consequences? We should consider the probable impact of government action– and the possible unintended consequences.

3. What will it cost (and who will pay)? And what might we have to give up to pay for it?

4. Has there been a serious and unbiased examination of the constitutionality of the action? An unconstitutional law is illegal and wastes taxpayer money.

5. Is it enforceable? Enforceability should be possible and practical, given the available resources.

6. Will its desired impact or results be evaluated objectively? There should be objectively measurable criteria for success.

7. Who is responsible for implementing, enforcing, and evaluating it? We should be wary of any legislation that creates new agencies, divisions, or departments.

8. Does it infringe upon any individual rights or disrupt important social foundations (such as the integrity of the family or the free practice of religion)? If so, is that infringement balanced by a strong public safety or public policy argument? There must be a balance between individual freedom and public safety.

9. Does it create a burden for business or infringe unnecessarily upon free enterprise and the free market? Laws should benefit the economy without unreasonably burdening private businesses.

10. Does it create accountability for those responsible for passing and enforcing it, ultimately reserving power to reverse it in the hands of the voters? Laws and lawmakers should be held accountable to the people.

This checklist is just a starting point. Do you have suggestions or constructive ideas for evaluating government? Email dick@grassrootinstitute.org and maliah@grassrootinstitute.org – and post your thoughts here on the Better Hawaii blog too.

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