House Sets Up Procedure for Repealing Bad Laws

Article excerpt

The House agreed Tuesday to a "Corrections Day" procedure that would allow quick votes on repealing laws and regulations that 60 percent of lawmakers considered unnecessary.

Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who pushed for the new process, said it "will highlight the ability to cut back on particularly foolish or particularly destructive acts by the bureaucracy."

The 271-146 vote to set up a twice-monthly time for disposing of bad laws was opposed by many Democrats, who claimed the rule eroded minority rights.

But the time has come to devise a way to eliminate laws that are "obsolete, ludicrous, duplicative, burdensome, costly and downright silly and absurd," said Rep. Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Rules Committee.

Among the rules that have been mentioned as candidates for Corrections Day are an Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation requiring four firefighters to be present - two inside and two out - before they can enter a burning building, and a regulation barring airports from cutting down adjacent trees if they are growing in a wetlands.

Democrats said Corrections Day was unnecessary, noting that the House already had a procedure, called suspension of the rules, where with a two-thirds majority noncontroversial bills could be moved quickly through the House.

They said the three-fifths vote under the corrections calendar would undermine minority rights, reducing the number of votes needed to pass fast-track legislation to 261 from 290.

The speaker should not be given this authority to determine nonamendable legislation, said Rep. Norman Mineta, D-Calif. "It is the power for one member to negate the votes of 29 other members," he said.

"I fear that this new corrections procedure we are considering will become a fast track for special interests to stop regulations that protect the public health and the environment," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

But Gingrich insisted there were "more than enough safeguards" to prevent abuse of the new system.

Most Illinois and Missouri lawmakers voted along party lines except Reps. Ike Skelton, D-Mo, and Pat Danner, D-Mo. They voted for the bill. …