Single-subject Rule - United States

United States

The single subject rule is provided for by many state constitutions in the United States of America. Its purpose is to avoid complexity in laws, to avoid any hidden consequences that legislators or voters may miss when reading the proposed law. This in turn prevents politicians from sneaking unpopular legislation through, piggybacked on legislation which is more likely to pass.

For example, the constitution of Minnesota, Article IV, Section 17, requires that "No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.". Conversely, neither the U.S. Congress nor the U.S. Constitution has such a rule so riders which are completely unrelated to the main bill are commonplace. These amendments are often put into bills at the last minute, so that any representative who may read the legislation before actually voting on it will not have a chance to catch it.

It has been charged that single-subject rules have been misused as a political or judicial measure to slow or nullify ballots or laws. An example of accusation of misuse of this law occurred in Colorado when a former governor made statement against a single-subject ruling. The rule can also result in overly narrow questions, that result in no substantial effects.

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