I just posted a comment at Advance Indiana in response to that blog’s apt criticism of House Minority Leader, Brian Bosma’s proposal to “clarify” the intent of SJR 7. Bosma essentially wants to offer a “statement of legislative intent” to tell the courts what the legislature “really” meant when it passed SJR 7, particularly the second sentence which prohibits a court from construing a law as conveying an incident of marriage to an unmarried couple (even if, presumably, the law conveys an incident of marriage to an unmarried couple.)
First, unlike Congress, Indiana doesn’t do legislative histories. I’ve never seen the Indiana courts go to a resolution of the General Assembly to divine intent. Maybe that’s happened somewhere, I don’t know. But, I do know that the courts won’t go fishing around for legislative intent if the language in the legislation is clear. If the law says “up,” the court won’t pay any attention to a resolution that says the General Assembly really meant “down.”
Seems to me that proposing a clarifying resolution is basically admitting that the General Assembly did not do its job in the first place. It didn’t clearly articulate the law it was seeking to impose. I’m fairly certain this is a feature, not a bug, for certain politicians — if they stated their intent clearly, the electorate would run screaming.
The drafting manual used by Legislative Services when drafting legislation for the Indiana General Assembly says, with respect to “purpose provisions”:
“(2) Purpose Provisions [see also BILL PREAMBLE, Page 25]
A well-drafted act requires no statement of what it seeks to accomplish or the reasons prompting its enactment. Do not include language stating the purpose of an act or reciting the facts upon which an act is predicated unless the included language would be useful in upholding the act against constitutional attack or is necessary to give meaning to a provision for liberal construction.”
There will be no “constitutional attack” here — after all this will *be* the Constitution. If clarity in drafting is a priority in creating ordinary legislation, seems to me it should be doubly so with respect to Constitutional draftsmanship.