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Our Government Is Wasting Time And Taxpayer Money On WHAT?!?!

 

Background

International Togetherness Day? Absolutely Incredible Kid Day? Martial Arts Day? Business Watch Month? Mosquito Vector Control Awareness Week?

These are just a few of the commemorative resolutions proposed by members of the California state legislature in recent years. Hundreds of these are introduced every year in legislatures across the country. State legislatures and local boards and councils nationwide give in to these symbolic, and largely meaningless, measures. They do not have the force of law, yet they take time away from serious, significant legislative efforts. Perhaps more importantly, each one consumes taxpayer dollars through printing costs, processing costs, and overhead costs associated with the legislative time that each of these measures consumes. Do the American people really need their governments to make such ego-basting declarations? Even the traditional opponents of privatization might agree that these events are better left for the private sector.

Although there are exceptions, most of these resolutions do not justify such expenditures. On International Togetherness Day, do all warring parties lay down their arms and roast s’mores over the campfire? On what basis do we determine which adolescents are deemed to be "Absolutely Incredible Kids", and is there an appeals process for those who just barely miss the mark? On Martial Arts Day, are we encouraged to plant a roundhouse kick to the chin of our employers? Should we not keep a watch on business during the eleven months that are not Business Watch Month? Have mosquitos agreed to be on their best behavior when we become aware of them during Mosquito Awareness Week?

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The Federal government has traditionally been the leader in useless resolutions of this kind. National Dairy Goat Awareness Week, and National Family Bread-Baking Month were two crowd-pleasers among the many commemorative resolutions on which Congress spent time and money. Do we then set up a Federal agency to monitor and maintain statistics on the increase in bread baking during that month?

If bread baking actually does increase during that month, what does that mean? Do we then establish Federal subsidies for Roman Meal, Oroweat, Earth Grains, Wonder, and all the other commercial bakeries and local bakeries that are adversely impacted during that month? And how do we even begin to celebrate Dairy Goat Week?

During the 1990s, there was an effort in Congress to do away with bills of this kind. But the practice was regenerated over time, yielding such 2006 gems as National Passport Month, National Children and Families Day, a resolution commending American craft brewers, and another commemorating the 30th anniversary of the victory by US winemakers at the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting.

                                     

Of course, it is unfair to single out any of the above-referenced interests. They are just among the thousands of subjects of resolutions that are less than crucial to the vitality of the free world. If you wondered where one could look to save some tax dollars, here's one area where we can save enough money for more than a few college scholarships.

At the same time, some of the resolutions do, in fact, serve a valuable purpose. Often, for example, they raise public attention to important issues or recognize people who have made great contributions to America, inspiring others to do the same. Sometimes, they can even be justified economically by urging people to take action that averts other, steeper costs. One worthy resolution was for the designation of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is well publicized each year, encouraging women to receive regular mammograms. If it has saved only one life by early detection of breast cancer and saves money by requiring less expensive treatment rather than the radical treatments necessary for advanced stages of the disease, then the resolution was well worth it.  And, chances are, it has saved far more than one.

Ideas / Solutions

Since commemorative resolutions can serve a purpose, they should not be altogether eliminated. Yet, since they take time and money that is better devoted to the more pressing matters, there is a need to reform the process.

A new system should be instituted at each legislative body that allows commemoratives, which treats these resolutions differently than bills with legal or budgetary impact. A legislator who wishes to put forth such a measure would first submit their commemorative proposals to the appropriate committee of jurisdiction by a certain filing deadline. Rather than letting each proposal be printed as a unique bill, resulting in a deluge of letters seeking support from other members, the committee would annually print out one list of all the proposals, with "Support" and "Oppose" boxes provided under each proposal. Members would be required to return their lists with their selections by a specified date. There would be no limit to the number of proposals that a Member could support.

Then, the committee would compile a list of all the proposals that received "Support" status from a majority of the Members, and introduce one resolution which includes all of them. When the resolution comes before each legislative chamber, it would involve just one vote, and could probably be approved by unanimous consent, without requiring votes.

The end result would be the same as occurs today, but at only a fraction of the cost and the time that is currently consumed.

 
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