THE DUTY OF A LEGISLATOR

by John Martin

January 3, 2005

As the next regular session approaches this February, what would cross most people's minds when asked about the duty of their legislators (and likewise their Congressmen, Senators, county commissioners, etc.)? Some might answer, "To pass laws--to legislate" or a similar response. Another frequent answer is to bring money--i.e. pork spending--or "growth" to his district. Alas, too many people judge their legislators by how much money they can dip out of the public pie and spend on programs instead of standing up for individual liberty and free enterprise.

So what, exactly, is the duty of a legislator? The first thing, it is NOT to jump up and pass as many laws as he can. If anything, it is to do just the opposite--to PREVENT the passage of any law that is unconstitutional, oppressive, or unnecessary. Today, that would be 99 percent of all the bills that come up to the floor. Let me repeat that--99 percent.

What are these 99 percent? They include all bills that do any of the following--increase taxes, impose new taxes, increase revenues, impose or intensify regulations or mandates, violate individual liberty or property rights, seize or condemn property, annex property into cities without a vote of the people, invade privacy, create or condone "crimes" that have no victims, create or maintain programs that should be left to the private sector, overspend (appropriate more money than was collected last year), expand the size or power of government, or violate the U.S. or Alabama Constitutions in any way--the Constitutions' PRINCIPLES, even if there are loopholes or inappropriate amendments that otherwise might make them "legal."

Every legislator should understand that America was founded on individual liberty, independence, and a very limited role for government. This is the bedrock that made America the greatest and most prosperous nation in the world. It is a sharp contrast to socialist and communist nations that let government run people's lives, stifle productive work ethics, and enslave the people to eternal poverty.

This principle is also clearly illustrated in the most important statement in the Alabama Constitution--Article 1, section 35: "That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression."

If any legislator does not understand what is a legitimate law and what is not, he should resign right away. If he doesn't have the guts to do that, he should at least have enough principle to always vote "no" on bad bills. And if he just doesn't understand what a bad bill is, he should vote "no" on everything. If he did that, he would automatically be right 99 percent of the time. No Alabama legislator in recent history has even approached a figure that high.

A frequent excuse from some legislators is: "If I voted "no" on everything, I wouldn't get any legislation passed." Sorry, but your job is not to just pass legislation. Your job is to protect the liberty and the rights of the people. Voting "no" on bad legislation always takes priority over getting one's bill passed.

Another frequent excuse is not having enough time to read a bill or not having a copy of the bill to read. Sure, things like that happen, and they happen a lot. A bill recently came through Congress that weighed 44 pounds. Who could read that? The answer is simple--VOTE "NO."

Of course, a legislator has to pass budgets and other routine business to run the state, but even here, he has a duty to vote "no" on any that obligate debt or extra taxes. He should do everything he can to keep the budgets limited so taxes can be minimized.

The duty of a legislator is not to pass new laws. It is NOT to "bring home the bacon"--create pork barrel projects in his district. It is NOT to trade off the people's liberty for safety. It IS to protect the people's rights, liberty, and property. It is to be a guardian against the numerous unconstitutional and unethical bills that are routinely brought up every session. If he wishes to pass any new laws, he should seek the repeal of oppressive government actions that are already on the books. He should always seek to make government smaller, less intrusive, and less expensive.



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