Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tryi ng To Provide Real Oversight

Did you know that unelected political appointees in Oklahoma have the ability to make new laws which may affect the lives of many people? You can only imagine how frustrating it is for those affected by these rules and who have little recourse since they cannot vote the unelected lawmakers out of office.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about rogue agencies. I defined rogue agencies as those agencies that have been co-opted by a group of industry insiders who can use the power of the government to protect their special interests. One way they can protect their special interests is to make rules and regulations that discourage their competitors.

This is the first year that I am serving on the Agency Review and Administrative Rule committee. The committee fulfills the role of providing legislative oversight of state agencies and is supposed to review any new rules.

The committee Chair, Rep. John Wright of Broken Arrow, is constantly encouraging committee members to perform due diligence in performing this review and he assigns each committee member different rules to study. I have observed that this work has created a sense of teamwork among members and breaks down partisan barriers.

The work has not been without results. Last week, Vice-Chairman Rep. George Faught of Muskogee filed a resolution to disapprove rules by one state agency that would greatly increase fees on schools and nonprofit organizations. It is shocking to me that a state agency can increase fees without a vote of the Legislature and I am grateful that Rep. Faught discovered these increases and is taking action to stop them.

That brings me to a very important point. I do not think any group should be able to make a law unless that law is first voted on by the Legislature. If the people do not like a law, they should have the ability to vote the person out of office who supported it. By delegating its lawmaking ability to unelected political appointees, the Legislature is sidestepping its elected responsibility of taking tough stands for or against new laws.

Rep. David Derby of Owasso presented a bill to the House that would have forced the Legislature to approve or disapprove all new laws that agencies are making, instead of the current system where committee members simply review the laws and determine if we should attempt to reject them.

Right, now, a bad law could easily be missed by our committee. If a committee member does not have time to review the new law or if the committee member supports a bad law, the odds of that law being stopped are infinitesimal. If Rep. Derby's idea were to be approved, it would mean that the whole Legislature would have to vote on the law instead of just one legislator.

Derby's proposal would return power to the people to hold those accountable who vote for bad laws.

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