Conservatives often complain about the U.S. Congress passing laws then letting executive branch bureaucrats promulgate rules, design enforcement and set fees. So the actual effect of new laws is to allow unelected bureaucrats regulate the lives of citizens and businesses. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the Republican supermajority in our state Legislature has decided to not follow Washington’s lead.
During the long years of Democratic rule, the Government Operations committees in the Legislature were boring exercises in routine housekeeping legislation. They were often stacked with some of the party’s less than stellar members, because you have to put them somewhere, and they rubber-stamped whatever the leadership wanted.
“Government Ops” under Republican rule has morphed into a very powerful operation, rivaling even the Rules Committee or Finance. The power to regulate state bureaucrats has always been there; it’s just not been exercised until now.
There has been a major revolution in the operation of state government that has occurred while everyone has been preoccupied with Bible bills, bathroom bills and other idiocy. State bureaucrats are no longer free to impose draconian regulations, increase fees or make rule changes without first getting a sign-off from the Legislature.
The House committee on Government Ops is led by state Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Newport. Faison is a rising star in the House, and he has had his committee reviewing with a view to eliminating or keeping 182 boards and commissions. He has also led the effort to get control of unelected bureaucrats imposing regulations at will. He is working in tandem with state Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville. New rules and regulations must now come to their committees for approval before they can be implemented. It turns the usual practice on its head. This has been met with horror by special interest groups that benefit from the status quo.
One of the first bills to require legislative oversight of state regulations was sponsored by state Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, along with Bell. Daniel has been trying to prevent state government regulations blocking poor people from making a living. One example: An unskilled inner-city single mother can’t get a job braiding hair or operating a shampoo stall in a salon without hours of training and fees that put an entry-level job out of reach. (For more on this, see the oped piece by Glenn Jacobs, aka Kane, in last Sunday’s Perspective section.)
A subtext in all this is that over the years of Democratic rule the executive branch senior-level bureaucrats were all Democrats, of course. Even under Republican governors, the Democrats still ran the bureaucracy from the deputy commissioners on down. When the Republicans were a pitiful minority, members who raised questions in committee were often treated with contempt by bureaucrats. Times have changed.
Tax cuts, eliminating regulations, promoting business development. The next time members of the Krazy Kaucus come up with stupid, unnecessary bills, which rightly deserve ridicule, remember that most of the members, like Faison and Bell, are passing meaningful legislation that helps people.