Text-mining journalists find that lawmakers introduced 10,000 bills that were copypasted from lobbyists' "model legislation"

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/04/11/asbestos-transparency-act.html


I’m surprised the number is only around 1%. I would have thought it was much higher.

Just eyeballing the map it looks like the conservative/liberal bias in the laws falls roughly along the lines of who is in control of the state senate.


But the Dems want to take away your cows.


This isn’t really news, although it helps to see objective numbers. What’s new is that periodic table of the states. Cool!


Actually this sort of research is really cool.

Schools use a similar technology all the time to catch plagarists.

An alert system that can RELIABLY detect lobbyist cut’n’paste legislation might be a super useful tool to have, even if it is less “crap filter” and more “give it a long hard glance”. I wouldn’t mind getting alerts if stuff like this was likely to go through.

Mind you, the workaround for this is for a lobbyist to rewrite their generic copy before handing it in to the teache…legislator.


That’s udder nonsense.


Your future is for sale! Modern democracy is no less a commodity than an ice cream. The difference being that only those with wealth and power can truly participate. Those individuals (and groups) will tell you and I that the democratic process encompasses us all, but when was the last time your “Representative” represented your opinion, or even listened to it?
It’s not democracy, it’s diversified dictatorship.


This is some of the best concept research for journalism I have ever seen.

The fact that we can Auto search like this should throw any lawmaker into the spotlight pretty obviously for what they are doing.

Absolutely stupendously brilliant piece of work and my comment will never be enough praise for the people who came up with this and saw it through. Bravo!


Agreed. Now if only the results can be translated into strong campaign ads and political messaging (for the voting masses)…

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Here’s an example happening RIGHT NOW in North Carolina, an ALEC bill introduced in 37 states to replace history and civics education with more economics education. The teachers say that imposing a new year of economics content will gut most content in US and European history courses at the high school level.


As well as ALEC, another organization to watch that provides “sample” legislation is


The Fraser Institute is their local Canadian branch-plant operation.

The Goldwater Institute, mentioned in the article, is another member of SPN.

That’s true, but to create 50 non-trivially different “model” bills, you’re heading towards 50 times as much work. Special interests might be happy to pay for 500 lawyer-hours to create one document that corrupts the entire US, but they might blink at the cost if that jumped to 25,000 lawyer-hours. No one really knows how much special interests would be willing to pay for corruption, because it’s always been horrifyingly cheap.

Plus, there are only so many ways to rewrite a list of specific demands. If “model” bills were actually illegal in some way, I don’t think legislatures would have any problem at all spotting them. If some half-wit state senator shows up for the first time in a month, waving a bill that “he wrote” about asbestos regulation, out of the blue, right after the neighboring state considered a bill on the same topic, you don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to guess what has happened.

The problem, of course, is that this is 100% legal and normal, and legislators are absolutely aware of where these bills come from. It’s abhorrent to voters, but so what? It is very, very easy to prevent voters paying attention to these details, when the whole point of representative democracy is that they don’t have to.

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I know, but something like this can essentially be set up as part of a warning system (set up a google alert when)
A) legislation matches lobbyist copy too closely
B) legislation proposals SUDDENLY CHANGES TO MATCH LOBBYIST COPY right before a vote.

That would be an insanely useful and easy to track system that would be easier to notice and review legislation.

In scenarios where this happens it would give people a heads up to review whether
A) changes are made to allow ease of implementation (ex: the costs went up because now you will train people on how to do it properly, otherwise it will not work)

B) changes are made due to expert input (ex: science based research says “pray the gay away” faith healers are abusive and deluded conmen. Do not fund them with government monies EVER).
C) changes to legislation occurred due to lobbyists blotting someone in the brain with money like an emerald cockroach wasp.

If tools like this make it easier to catch and prevent scenario C, then wonderful.

You think lawyer hours and lawyer money. Think english grad money and english grad hours.

Kind of shocked that the absolute number is so low. The next area for research is figuring out a way to assess the magnitude of these laws’ actual effects, perhaps by measuring the number of individuals regulated, or the amount of money spent. Surely ALEC, corporations, and whatever the liberal version of ALEC is are on the lookout for laws that give them the most benefit.

Also, I expect this opinion will be unpopular, but I am not convinced that it’s necessarily a bad idea to have somebody with some expertise in an area draft the actual legislation, as opposed to (at best) an intelligent generalist who is trying in good faith to regulate an area that she’s had not quite enough briefing on and (at worst) a hayseed clownshoes state legislator who is convinced of his own moral rectitude.

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