Thursday, February 2, 2017
Rebecca Kysar (Brooklyn) presents Automatic Legislation at Indiana-Bloomington today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Leandra Lederman:
To compensate for the status quo bias in the legislative process, lawmakers have developed devices that, under certain conditions, provide easier paths to policy refreshment. Procedural mechanisms, like the reconciliation process, may eliminate barriers to legislating (“veto bridges”). Laws may prompt Congress to act through sunset dates or penalties like sequestration or other undesirable policy outcomes (“prompting legislation”). Or the legislative product itself may automatically update without further action by Congress (“automatic legislation”). It is this last, underutilized category, I contend, that best overcomes policy stasis while also avoiding the pathologies presented by the other two. Specifically, automatic legislation is preferable along several different axes: interaction with the administrative state, entrenchment effects, political economic and democratic concerns, and the budget process.
Automatic legislation holds particular promise in areas where these concerns are acute, and where its design is not too costly. Notably, tax law shares all of these qualities. This partially explains why tax law already contains a greater degree of automatic legislation than other areas. Even still, automatic legislation is under-utilized in that context. The design features of automatic legislation, for instance, could be particularly useful in designing pigouvian taxes because they could be calibrated to set the correct level of market correction at any given time.