Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

For Lawmakers, Changing Definitions of the Law is Easier Than Following It

Author: David Yee
Created: 08 June, 2015
Updated: 15 October, 2022
2 min read

On June 3, IVN reported on the Kansas budget woes of the so-called "tea-party experiment," including the almost imminent furlough of non-essential state employees beginning on June 7.

In an interesting twist to an already wild political roller-coaster ride, the Kansas House unanimously passed an emergency measure with a simple aim: reclassifying all state workers as essential employees:

On June 5, 2015, through sine die adjournment of the 2015 regular legislative session, for the purposes of civil service and personnel administration relating to state officers or employees being furloughed, every state officer or employee shall be considered an essential officer or employee  -- House Substitute for Senate Bill No. 11

Even stranger is the fact that Senate Bill No. 11 as introduced had absolutely nothing to do with the budget, state employee's classifications, or the impending furlough:

An Act concerning regulated scrap metal; relating to the crime of theft; sentencing; evidence at preliminary examination; regulation of scrap metal dealers; unlawful acts; penalties -- Senate Bill No. 11

And while this is an obscure twist in the budget story in Kansas, this kind of political action affects every American -- on a local, state, and national level.

At Times, Definitions are Everything -- And it's Important to All of Us

Presidents Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama all toyed with the definitions of what was "on-budget" or "off-budget" when it came to various line items on the federal budget, mostly in an effort to make the budget look as good as possible to their respective ilks.

Sometimes executive orders can change definitions, but most often it's the legislative process that re-defines how the law is applied.

Entitlement programs are most prone to this, because of their very nature. When most people think of entitlements, they use the definition with the pejorative connotation of "believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment."

In law, an

entitlement is simply a person's rights under the law because they meet the definitions provided within the law -- e.g. a tax cut law for businesses that hire veterans is actually an entitlement program.

This is where all Americans need to be concerned. In Kansas, the Legislature cannot approve a budget that will pass constitutional requirements, so they change definitions within the law so that they can prolong the wrangling over crafting a budget.

This happens every day throughout America, most notably during congressional sequestration battles and the ensuing gimmicks employed to avoid the draconian effects of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

We don't need gimmicks or carefully crafted definitions that do nothing other than place the government in "auto-pilot mode." We need budgets that build roads, increase trade, fund schools, police our streets, and protect our nation, as well as any other number of functions of the government.

We need to hold our politicians accountable. Progress is defined as passing legislation that helps the people, not by passing legislation that redefines the law as a political gimmick to maintain party platforms and the status quo.

Photo Credit: Feng Yu / shutterstock.com