Typically, when one can more efficiently accomplish a task, especially one with rather large implications, that speed is seen as an improvement, an objectively better way of approaching something challenging. Optimizing a characteristically cumbersome process by cutting off loose ends, portions which act in no other way than to inhibit speed are celebrated. Especially in a society which values seamlessness and is used to a certain level of instantaneousness, we’re often troubled by practices which take longer than we think they should.
Our irritation is almost instant, we’re more gifted than we may realize at identifying areas to improve efficiency. But in that same frame of mind, we have absolute intolerance for any drop in quality as a result of increased efficiency. We want things done quickly, but done with care. We want things now, but we want them with zero mistakes. We want our new sweater to arrive in less than four days, and without any loose threads. Our expectation of speed and consistent quality is oftentimes unrealistic, sometimes quality must suffer at the expense of speed, that’s simply the nature of things.
But this relationship should never extend to our lawmaking processes, and it does. While lawmaking may not exist in the same category as consumerism, it undoubtedly has more of an effect on our lives than does a shipping time estimate. Lawmakers should unequivocally value quality and devoted attention to detail over speed, but there are times when sloppiness or desperation result in the passing of a bill not yet ready to become law.
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Let’s consider a recent bill to make its way through the Wisconsin State Assembly this March. The bill, approved by GOP lawmakers, extended the hours for Wisconsin wineries, allowing them to stay open past midnight in order to accommodate wedding receptions. But included in this bill is an amendment which “would also ban serving up alcohol at tailgating parties around Wisconsin stadiums unless the homeowner renting out parking spaces got a liquor license.”
Obviously, such an amendment will not work in this state, no chance. So why did such an amendment pass? Isn’t this a fairly low-impact bill? Shouldn’t it be fairly easy to read the bill in its entirety? How complex can an hour-extending bill be?
Per the Journal Times, lawmakers had finished work for this session, leaving the Senate with a flawed bill that most likely won’t be addressed before they adjourn. As such, Wisconsin wineries are stuck with a 9 p.m. closing time until lawmakers can take the time to right their wrongs. Simply put, lawmakers moved too quickly, missed a deal-breaking amendment which, in turn, delayed passing a bill with niche benefits that would’ve meant a great deal to winery owners. Because of their laziness, business owners who don’t deserve to be negatively affected are left without benefits they may have been counting on.
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The lesson from this fairly low-stakes example is clear — laziness affects everyone. Even further, this pattern is unfortunately not confined to winery-based legislation. The Affordable Care Act was rushed through the voting, approval and ratification process, and was signed into law without many involved lawmakers even reading its contents entirely. While the ACA has been largely beneficial for those who previously could not afford adequate health insurance, that shouldn’t excuse the necessity to read sweeping legislation diligently. It’s the same story with the failed GOP healthcare bill earlier last year. Multiple GOP lawmakers openly admitted to not reading the bill in its entirety.
Laziness like this cannot and should not be tolerated in our local and national governments. Laziness only results in one thing: sloppiness. I’m not advocating for a strung-out, cumbersome, illogically lengthy lawmaking process. Just like the majority of America, I’d adore swift and efficient legislative change. But imagining a society where laws are passed quickly and with minimal conflict is idyllic, albeit unrealistic.
Laws take time, but each bill that crosses the assembly floor should be assessed with an identical level of diligence. Failure to properly read and analyze new legislation has no benefits. Taking the extra time to ensure a complete understanding of laws is time worth taking. I can guarantee those hung out to dry as a result of lazy law evaluation would rather endure the extra research time than be forced to endure undeserved suffering as a result of flippant voting. In essence, focus up lawmakers, your passiveness is affecting more than your schedule.
Lucas Johnson ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and strategic communications.