OTHER VIEWS: Dismantling the Legislative State, in four easy steps

  • Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 7:23 a.m.

1. Empower governors. Let them hire and fire the directors of nearly all state agencies, including those now overseen by the elected education superintendent, agriculture commissioner and adjutant general, and hold them responsible for the results. This would allow governors to carry out the agenda on which voters elected them. Real gubernatorial authority will attract a more competent class of candidates.

2. Consolidate agencies. We have more than 70 agencies in the executive branch of government: six that deliver health services; five responsible for natural resources and environmental programs; four that handle jobs and economic development. We have 33 colleges and, in a state with just 46 counties, 85 school districts, some with fewer than 1,000 students. This wastes money and makes coordination and efficient management impossible.

3. Empower local governments. The power to appoint county-level officials should be turned over to county councils, or else, as with elections, the local entities should be abolished and their duties given to the state. Single-county special-purpose districts should be dismantled and their duties turned over to counties. County councils should be free to set taxes and spend money as they see fit; voters can decide whether their policies are acceptable.

4. Transform the Legislature. Freed from meddling in state agencies and local matters, legislators would have time to focus on what legislatures in the rest of the country do: setting state policy and making sure it is carried out effectively and efficiently. Lawmakers need to overhaul their committee system, so the focus of every committee is to understand the missions of and provide oversight for agencies in its purview.

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