House Bill 1580 is the product of such a brainstorming session this summer between three freshman House Republicans: Bob Kingsbury of Laconia, Tim Twombly of Nashua and Lucien Vita of Middleton. The eyebrow-raiser, set to be introduced when the Legislature reconvenes next month, requires legislation to find its origin in an English document crafted in 1215.
"All members of the general court proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived," is the bill's one sentence.
Can we start with getting them to cite the Constitution?
Some version of this concept might be a very good idea, although if you were going to pick one document the Magna Carta is probably not it. A large number of its provisions pertain to issues like scutage, dowries, and feudal relief payments. In general these no longer pertain to how we organize society (although perhaps we should reconsider the feudal system, which at least required that all recipients of government support provide the government with clear public services in return). There are also some disabilities for women and Jews that force us not to consider the Magna Carta as the be-all, end-all of our rights.
On the other hand, there's something wholesome about the idea of requiring the government to prove its claims. Rights language has been abused by those who favor an expansive government role (e.g., 'education is a right!', 'decent housing is a right!', 'health care is a right!', etc). If the Magna Carta is not sufficient by itself, it might serve as one of a list of documents that show a given liberty or right to be well-recognized and of long standing. The protection of rights and liberties of that sort ought to be one of our chief concerns.
For example, provisions 38-9 would be problematic for the administration's current policy toward assassination or indefinite detention of US citizens without trial:
In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.
No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.