European Journal of Law Reform

Article

That’s Not What I Bargained For: Legislative Materials, Comparative Intent, and the Nature of Statutory Bargains

Authors Chris Land
Author's information

249400 Chris Land
Juris Doctor Student, 2016, University of Minnesota Law School. LL.M., with distinction, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London; B.S., summa cum laude, Florida State University.
  • Abstract

      Statutory interpretation is quickly becoming the primary function of our courts. Ambiguity, unexpected scenarios, and drafting errors in legislation compound this challenging task, obliging many judges to turn to debate transcripts and other legislative materials in search of our elected representatives’ intent.
      Legislatures are intrinsically the products of the societies that create them, however, with each possessing a diverging structure and rules of procedure. These institutional differences affect bills’ drafting, consideration, and passage, and represent the mechanical process of how legislative bargains are translated into binding statutory text.
      Through the lenses of the United Kingdom Parliament and the United States Congress, the fundamental logic behind these institutions’ legislative bargains will be explored, assessing the impact of procedure and the interests that shape the enacting process. Parliamentary tradition emphasizes the foundational role of Her Majesty’s Government in managing virtually all legislation, maintaining a unity of purpose without compromise, amendment, or purposefully ambiguous provisions. Conversely, unique procedures and the multiplicity of veto players within Congress necessitates that compromise is a de facto requirement for passage. The diverging logic behind these legislative bargains offers powerful evidence that institutional characteristics have a dispositive impact on the utility of legislative materials in statutory interpretation.

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