An Analogy Between Legislative Text and Computer Code

It’s important for legislative text to be written in a concise manner and organized in an orderly fashion. When looking at computer code, there is the concept of procedural programming, object oriented programming and a thing called spaghetti code.

Procedural programming is written as one long document filled with computer code. If a certain set of procedures need to be repeated, they are written again in the same document. This is how how most legislation should be written. Object oriented code, uses a main document with sub documents that cover specific sets of instructions. This works well for programming but is difficult for most programmers to do well so they mostly focus on a specific sub document that resembles procedural programming to them. The software architect then supervises the sub-documents and make sure they all work well with each other and are compliant with the main document. Ideally, this is how legislation would be written but this is a difficult concept to grasp and fully master. The majority of object oriented code winds up looking like spaghetti code.

Spaghetti code is how much of the legislation in the USA is currently written. Legislation randomly points to other legislative text that may no longer be valid or active or was never valid to begin with. It references itself instead of being written in a clear and organized manner and sub documents point to other sub documents that may not necessarily be related to the current sub-document. The term comes from computer code looking like a bowl spaghetti if you were to print out the pages and draw a line from one computer routine to the other to try and determine the final outcome of a certain action. Other terms include procedural, waterfall, and object-oriented.

A Template for Legislative Text

With this in mind, the majority of legislative text should be written in a procedural manner with subject matter experts and constitutional or international treaty attorneys reviewing the final draft before it is published. Each legislative document should cover one topic thoroughly and there should be a standardized format or template for presenting the text. A suggestion for this template would be the following:

  • Title
  • Sponsors
  • Originating House: Senate or House
  • Resolution Number
  • US Code Title (Proposed title to amend)
  • Public Law Number
  • Text of Legislation
  • Penalties for Violation
    • Type of Penalty
      • fine only, infraction, misdemeanor, felony, attack on government, treason, international crime.
    • Prison Time
    • Fine Amount

With this format in place for the US Code and the US Congress, States can easily take a glance at a certain section of the US Code and ask a Congressional Researcher if any Federal Legislation exists regarding the legislative topics they are reviewing in their State.

States can use the same format for writing their legislation which would make it easier for Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement to cooperate and would allow other states to easily review a piece of legislation in another state and adopt it in their state by only changing the resolution numbers and sponsors along with making edits to the legislation that may not work well for their states. The originating house for state level legislation would be State Assembly or State Senate.

If enough states pass the same piece of legislation, it can be taken to Congress for amending to the US Code as it will have a high certainty of passing both houses and being approved by the President of the United States. The sponsors in this case can be “State Legislature of” followed by the name of the states that already passed the legislation.

This format allows the Supreme Court to easily review a State’s Penal Code when a US Citizen makes a claim that a piece of legislation is unconstitutional and allows Congress to setup an automated audit that searches for unconstitutional text or text that violates an international treaty that the US is a part of through the House Standing Committee on Science, Space and Technology or the Senate Standing Committee on Rules and Administration.

This would ultimately reduce the amount of time spent passing legislation that would be invalid or null and void if it were to pass both houses and be signed by the President of the United States. It allows Congress to focus on Health Management and Economic Growth of the population within the United States.