House Speaker John Boehner famously dropped a copy of President Obama’s stimulus bill on the House floor during the debate over its passage, calling it a 1,100-page bill “that not one member of this body has read.”
But the stimulus is only one example highlighted in Jerrol LeBaron’s documentary “Fools on the Hill,” which chronicles a series of stories about state and federal lawmakers rushing to pass legislation they haven’t read.
At Heritage’s Bloggers Briefing on Tuesday, LeBaron presented a trailer of the film and took questions about his drive to get Congress to pass a law that requires the absolute final version of a bill (or allocation of funds) be posted on the Internet well in advance of a final vote. LeBaron is the executive director of the group Honor in Office, which he founded to promote the film.
LeBaron’s hopes to get a law on the books in every state requiring lawmakers to read legislation before it receives a vote.
His documentary chronicles his journey through North Dakota in 2010, as he attempted to get his proposal on a statewide ballot referendum. A California native, LeBaron chose to take his campaign to North Dakota because he thought the state gave him the best hope of getting his proposal on the ballot that year. In the end, though, he only got 2,000 of the roughly 15,000 signatures necessary.
“I would call that pretty much a complete and absolute failure,” LeBaron says in the documentary, pointing out that the process of collecting signatures for a ballot initiative was more complicated than he expected.
But he isn’t giving up. From July 17-27, Honor in Office is planning to hold a rally for political reform in Washington, D.C., as LeBaron takes his fight to the national stage.
He points to bills with support across the political spectrum, from the PATRIOT Act to the stimulus, as evidence that no bill will be as good as it can possibly be if lawmakers don’t read it before voting. Still, he faces some challenges. As one citizen interviewed for the film asks, “Why do we have to have a bill to get them to read the bill?”