Every Legislature Needs a Permanent "Repeals" Committee

by Jeffry R. Fisher


Legislators, like most professionals, often feel compelled to justify their positions through positive action (i.e. when one has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail). This is compounded by democracy's publicity-seeking electoral process that drives almost every office holder to "do something" in each session and each crisis. Heretofore, legislators have been assigned to various law-spinning committees, which measure productivity by how much new law they create and how much new authority they usurp.

Therefore, basic human instinct drives most office holders to create new law and expand roles. How many times have you seen politicians do wrong because they "had to do something"? Wouldn't it be nice if at least a few of our legislators were put in position where the only way to act or get attention was to scrap bad law and relinquish unconstitutional authority?

A Committee is Born

Let's put some legislators on a committee whose sole purpose is to hear complaints about existing law. Let their only authority be to propose bills rescinding acts or clauses thereof. This is the Repeals Committee.

With their minds turned toward deconstruction, and with their hearings loaded with critics of the very real consequences of existing law as implemented and adjudicated, legislators' instinctive compulsion to act would become engaged in cleanup, partly balancing their colleagues' endless stream of wishful thinking new laws and feel-good power-grabbing.

Rookies Recommended

I think that every first-time legislator should start on the repeals committee for an introduction to the art of legislative craft. They should get a thorough dose of common legislative error before charging off to create more. Such a reality check could curb their pro-government zeal and improve their later statute writing.

As a bonus, a stint on the repeals committee would offer each new legislator a survey course in many legislative topics before each settles into a topical career specialty. Then, the few who display wide ranging ability to spot and eliminate problems in existing statutes might find a home in repeals as the legislature's senior analysts who double as shepherds for each session's rookies.


When getting down into the details and the purposes of various existing codes, the Repeals Committee might meet jointly with or ask questions of various topical committees. Then, in the rare cases that the best course appears to be to replace an old law with new, the repeals committee might, in its report, recommend the general nature of a replacements and what criteria they should meet, but the Repeals Committee's bills would go only as far as rescinding bad statutes. Acting on recommendations would be left to the many existing topical committees. Therefore, the repeals committee wouldn't need to duplicate their topical specializations in subcommittees. Instead...

Repeals Subcommittees

The Repeals Committee's subcommittees would be legislative failure modes like:

Okay, so their exact wording might need to be euphemized a bit, but you get the idea.

By specializing along these lines, legislators would be drawn into considering each failure mode. Even better, their own ambitions should drive them to find examples during each session in order to puff up their own importance.

They'll also be motivated to seek out and publicize speakers to the worst government abuses. With luck, the last generation's love affair with big government will cool under a steady rain on its parade.

Copyright 2003-2008 by Jeffry R. Fisher: Permission is granted to reproduce this article in whole, but only in combination with attribution, the original title, the original URL, and this copyright notice.
Jeffry R. Fisher is the founder and president of Propagate Ltd, which is liberating digital content as LiberateIP.com.