I am a big fan of the CSPAN online video library and archive. The archive contains numerous State of the State addresses — the annual speech by the Governor to the Legislature in which he or she outlines their policy proposals for the next year. It’s a great resource for learning about policy proposals from other states.
I have also used the archive to gain perspective on past initiatives in Oklahoma. The archive contains Oklahoma State of the State presentations dating back to Governor Bellmon’s 1989 speech.
One cannot watch these presentations without getting a “Groundhog Day” sensation. Time and again the governors feel compelled to propose new government programs and initiatives. Invariably they propose a program that will likely grow the scope of government at either the state or local level.
I think many politicians feel obligated to make a name for themselves. I am sure they want to do right and help their state do well, but they also want to create a legacy and perhaps run for a higher and better office in the future.
In the short term, the consideration of their new programs consume the time and resources of the government as the politicians consider how to implement the most recent proposal. In the long term, the program either becomes a conduit to special interest influence and maybe even corruption, or it peters out but stays in state statute to possibly be reactivated in the future.
This fact really became apparent to me in 2013 when the House Speaker created a committee with the mandate to review what are known as repealer proposals: bills that delete existing law instead of creating new. Three or four of us accepted the challenge and went to work scavenging the statutes for these old laws.
Over the years, I started thinking of us as the Legislature’s garbage men.
It isn’t the most spectacular work ever, but is an important job that someone really needs to do it on a regular basis.
Legislative garbage men find the rarely visited neighborhoods in the volumes of state statute books, locate the graveyards containing the abandoned dreams of state leaders long past, and eliminate them.
The creators of these old policies sought to use the power of state or local government to create jobs, economic benefit, etc. But as is the case with so many government programs, the programs didn’t work out and now sit as rusting relics on the statute books until we come along and clean up the debris, thus keeping them from being reactivated and abused by state or local government.
My advice to state officials: quit producing garbage!
Just about every possible program has been tried. Many have not worked. Worse, some programs have created cesspools of bad policy or systems of corruption and abuse that are hard to get rid of because those who benefit have the political power to keep them on the books.
Instead of attempting to solve societal ills through the creation of a new government scheme, policy leaders must roll back the numerous inefficient and corrupt programs that are already on the books. In the absence of bad government, the free market will flourish and provide solutions to societal ills much more effectively than politicians ever could.
Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.