Historical Advice for Lawmakers

The Wisconsin Legislature opened up its 2013-14 session this week with speeches of grandeur and promises of public service from its leaders. The first week lawmakers meet, there is never a shortage of advice shared with new members about how to do their jobs with a focus on things like keeping their word, maintaining their integrity.

In the process of researching a project on a former Arizona governor named Paul Fannin, I came across the Republican’s words of wisdom to his legislature more than 50 years ago when he was the state’s chief executive. It seemed germane today.

In reality, his thoughts were posed as questions lawmakers should ask themselves when considering a piece of legislation. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the list. Please submit them below.

Former Gov. Paul Fannin’s (R-Arizona) questions for state lawmakers to ask as they began their annual session and found proposed legislation crossing their desks.

Former Arizona Gov. Paul Fannin

1)      Is it necessary?  Or is it something that is not really needed, or perhaps being provided for already.

2)      Can we afford it? Remember, there is no limit to what we would like, but there is a limit to what we can afford.

3)      What will it cost ultimately? Many proposals are like icebergs—only a small fraction of the total cost is apparent on the surface.

4)      How will it affect basic liberties? If it imposes unreasonable or illegal restrains on your life or that of others, it should be vigorously opposed. Realize—a free society isn’t perfect. Yet, it is by far the best there is or ever has been.

5)      Is it in the best balanced interest of all? If it is designed to benefit a small group or special interest while taking unfair advantages of others, work for its defeat.

6)      Is it a ‘foot-in-the-door’ proposition? Compromising a little now may bring an oppressive burden later in more regulations or more taxes or a combination of both.

7)      Does it place too much power in the hands of one individual or group? Once decisive power is granted to a non-elected public official, a commission, board or council, the private citizens lost effective control.

8)      Does it recognize the importance of the individual and the minority? This is a cornerstone of our republic.

9)      Is its appeal based on emotional propaganda or facts? The farther a proposition gets away from the facts, the more critical one should be.

10)   Does it square with your moral convictions? If so, work for it; if not, oppose it.

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