Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Should Citizens Draft Legislation?

Proponents of "Direct Democracy" are of the opinion that, given the right tools, citizens can and should be much more active in drafting the laws that govern their lives. The Sunlight Foundation has launched an online experiment aimed at engaging citizens in the process of researching and crafting legislation, in this case around the policy ideas in which Sunlight is particularly interested, such as Lobbying Reporting and Personal Financial Disclosures for members.

First of all, kudos to Sunlight for walking the walk and talking the talk on their issues. They want transperancy and they're willing to open up their process to anyone with the passion and enthusiasm to undertake a lot of work.

But to me, that's where the rub comes in. Now, you'd think as the "Advocacy Guru," I'd be all about the citizen participation. The truth is, while I have no objections whatsoever to citizens developing and, heck, even voting on and passing legislation, I'm not sure how this process will work. Frankly, I think most people would get very bored very quickly with the mind-numbing intricacies of crafting a bill. Maybe that's just me -- I got bored with it after several years of working on Capitol Hill.

To me, it sounds a little like an initiative process that has gone awry. Anyone from California that has gone through the huge list of citizen initiatives on voting day might understand that one of the basic premises behind representational democracy is the idea that citizens shouldn't have to deal with all this crap. I mean really, who wants to vote on boundary adjustments and Post Office namings?

That said, please go to the site and check it out. It really does offer a great opportunity for average citizens to get a glimpse into the process. Maybe a glimpse is all you'll need!

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