Booby Trapped Pollution Bill Illustrates Goofy Lawmaking Process

I might never have known about an insidious provision slipped into the “cap and trade” bill if a reader, identified as Grace, hadn’t pointed it out in a comment on one of my blogs. Like just about everyone else, including the representatives in the House who voted on it, I had not read the bill’s 1,200 pages. I assumed it simply decreed that polluting industries would be fined and the proceeds would be used to fund alternative energy development.

I was wrong. Someone – possibly a lobbyist for “energy efficient” window manufacturers – got to a legislator, who inserted a provision that would mandate new and oppressive standards for homeowners.

capThe goofy provision would force you and me to make expensive upgrades to our homes before we could sell them. Well, maybe not you. Your home may already meet the draconian “code” that would result from the bill. But me for sure. I am one of those people who prefer old things – old friends, old pets, old trees, old furniture, old cars, old houses… And old houses are usually not “energy efficient.”

As dozens of irate commentators are pointing out on the web, this would effectively scuttle sales of existing homes. In our case, Sandra and I could not afford to make the required upgrades, especially since I understand the value of our home has plummeted 50 percent in the past three years or so. There would be no way of getting the upgrade money back. So, you can bet we wouldn’t be selling our home under those conditions.

Here’s how real estate columnist Michele Lerner at sums up the provision’s impact:

I cannot begin to imagine what a crushing blow this will be (if passed) to the vast majority of home sellers who would be forced to replace windows and furnaces and plumbing fixtures to meet government standards of water use and energy efficiency – regardless of whether the potential buyers want these features.

(Thanks to Grace, you can read Lerner’s column here: )

In her comment, Grace declared:

If it passes as is, I could lose my house, I can’t afford to replace all of the windows. I hope they grandfather us in, and make the changes effective for new construction and additions, like every other change to the building codes.

I cannot believe the bill will pass the Senate with the goofy provision unchanged. In fact, my suspicious nature makes me wonder whether the lawmaker who inserted the provision did it to sabotage “cap and trade” legislation. It has given senators a valid reason for voting no, as manufacturing and fossil fuel lobbyists are urging them to do.

And that illustrates the craziness of America’s legislative process. As bills go through Congress, politicians surreptitiously slip in their pet projects in the hope that no one will notice the sometimes quite irrelevant additions among the acres of unreadable jargon. All kinds of nutty provisions get passed that way. Sometimes I despair of ever seeing sensible government in America – or anywhere.