“Laws are like sausages,” is it said. “Best not to see them being made.”
While the above anecdote may be true for most people, if you’re a member of a conference committee or a subcommittee charged with creating laws, you need to pay close attention to how those laws are made. And that’s not an easy process. For a bill to become law, it may move though committees and subcommittees in the House and Senate, where all aspects of the bill are considered, debated, marked up, and voted on. There may be many individual amendments or motions that must also be considered, debated, and voted upon.
And that voting process can take a while. One subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives had more than 50 members, all of whom were eligible to vote on every single motion and amendment proposed during a bill’s markup sessions —and between the hand votes and voice roll call votes, it could take 10 minutes to determine whether an individual motion passed or did not pass. An individual motion. Multiply that 10-minute period by the number of motions attached to a bill and it’s no wonder outsiders think that bills simply go to committees to die.
Voting need not take so much time. An electronic voting system such as TownVOTE captures Yes/No/Abstain votes in near-real time. Individual committee and subcommittee members can vote simultaneously (rather than sequentially), and the electronic voting system captures each vote and instantly displays how each member voted. The software tallies the votes immediately, so all members can see the outcome in seconds. In the 55-member subcommittee where voting could take 10 minutes per vote, the use of an electronic voting tool enables them to complete and capture the full vote—accurately—in less than two minutes.
If only sausage manufacturers could gain such efficiencies…