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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Original wording and intent

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  • With elections two months away, this may be a good time to raise one of the broader issues facing us. To me, the biggest current challenge to our republic is our willingness to bypass our law-making processes due to impatience or dissatisfaction with the results. This happens with both the courts altering the meaning of the law in pursuit of justice, and the executive branch altering laws by decree. These behaviors have been largely condoned by liberals as most of the resulting changes have been to their liking, but now we see the inevitable reaction with people like Bobby Jindal using executive orders to implement conservative ideas. Yet if the law can be changed because that is better in the view of a few people, however well-intentioned, that makes the law mean less, and it lets legislatures be sloppy in their formulation of the law. (Do even its supporters think the Affordable Care Act was well written?) The solution is obvious - return to a respect for the wording and intent of the law. However, the contrary practices have become so ingrained that I believe this goal now requires a Constitutional Amendment. I would suggest something like the following:
    Section 1. No portion of the laws of this country or in the states and regions under its jurisdiction shall be interpreted contrary to the meaning of its words at the time of adoption, nor in a way which would likely have prevented its original adoption with that wording. Section 2. The law shall not be changed by the adoption of this amendment, but all changes in the law subsequent to its adoption shall be judged for validity independently of prior court decisions which did not follow this standard.
    Note the Constitution itself is part of our laws, so this applies to its interpretation as well. Section 2 is necessary to avoid the chaos of throwing myriads of issues for reconsideration upon the courts at once, but returns to legislatures the ability to address such issues. Section 1 forces legislatures to be careful with the wording of laws, as the meaning of the words is crucial, but it also prevents the executive and the courts from changing the meaning to fit their ideology, conservative or liberal. This won’t solve our problems, but if the law need not mean what it says, all its solutions are themselves problematic.
    — Leo Chouinard, Newton.

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