The Confederacy's constitution provided that no bill before the legislature
could deal with more than one topic. A bill's title had to reflect its content, and
unrelated amendments couldn't be added.
Although not much else of value may have come from the Confederates, that short-lived
legalism was no doubt a reaction to the excesses of mid 19th century Congresses from which
the Southern lawmakers had withdrawn.
It came to mind during the ungainly attempts to reconcile the procurement reform bill
of Rep. Bill Clinger (R-Pa.) with that of Sen. William Cohen (R Me.) Clinger's bill passed
the House in standalone version. Both bills were attached to their respective chambers'
defense authorization bills as a way to glide them through with less debate.
It's a poor way to make law in such an important area. Bothersome as buying laws and
regs may be, the Republic has managed to muddle along with them for the past 30 years.
Surely debating these bills on their own merits alone would be worth the six months or
year extra it might take for them to come to a clean vote.
Only three short years ago, Vice President Al Gore laid out a vision for partnership
between government and industry on the so-called National Information Infrastructure.
What a difference those years have made. The communications industry has undergone a
paroxysm of realignment, underscored by the recent--and unexpected--breakup of
It'll be years before predictability and stability come to communications. Ultimately,
though, the government will benefit.
Meanwhile, the Administration is wise to take a role as big user, rather than builder,
of the NII. This is no time to be picking winners and losers. As Clinton aide Thomas Kalil
points out in our special report (Page 51), "The information superhighway will always
be a work in progress." But it's private industry's work.
The government has enough to do creating useful content and seeing to standards for
security and electronic commerce.