Mandate is good
It is the bane of almost every local borough councilman, WRwnVKLS FRPPLVVLRnHU DnG VFKRRO ERDUG RIfiFLDO.
They all look at the latest mandate from Harrisburg, raise their hands and say, in unison, who’s going to pay for this? Usually it’s the taxpayers. Open up the wallet, folks. That’s why we were heartened to hear of the work of the Pennsylvania Legislature’s Mandate Study Task Force. If there’s one thing that could use greater scrutiny, it’s state mandates. So a task force to do just that would seem like a great idea.
The task force has been studying ways to reduce state mandates on local municipalities. Sharpen up those pencils, folks. It didn’t take them long to hit pay dirt.
The panel already has come up with some good ideas — in SDUWLFXODU, RnH WKDW wRXOG UHTXLUH D fiVFDO DnDOyVLV RI KRw SURposed legislation would affect local governments. That actually holds the promise of a culture change, getting at the root of the issue. The move would target not only the simple numbercrunching by legislative staffers that addresses the costs to state government, but also to the government entity that would end up holding the bag.
The caution here is not to go overboard. Everybody hates mandates. Unfortunately, without them not a lot gets done.
The task force suggests there are currently some 6,500 mandates — laws — affecting local municipalities.
Laws don’t materialize by a magical or evil process. In Pennsylvania, we the people elect 253 other people, whom we call lawmakers, to produce those laws. These are the same people who have now created a task force to slim down those very same mandates. It’s kind of like chasing your tail after a while.
It’s not hard to see why Pennsylvania is the proud home of one of the largest and most expensive lawmaking bodies in the country. And therein lies the real solution to the mandate problem.
Every law has a constituency. Laws originate with individuDOV DnG LnWHUHVW JURXSV, DnG WKRVH IRONV WXUn WR WKHLU HOHFWHG RIficials to take care of them in the state capital. One person’s hated mandate is another’s vital public safeguard. There’s a recent law regulating puppy mills. Almost everyone is against them. But cracking down on them is not inexpensive.
Nearly everyone is clamoring right now for more laws requiring the reporting of suspected child sexual abuse, and more laws regulating state-related universities. When something goes wrong, we conclude it happened because we didn’t have enough laws or the right ones.
Lawmakers feel like they’re accomplishing something (and justifying their existence) when they’re passing laws — especially those intended to address problems pointed out by constituents. At election time they brag about laws they’ve sponsored or co-sponsored and we reward them by re-electing them for looking out for our interests.
So by all means, review the plethora of state mandates and whack those deemed too expensive or onerous. But while we’re at it, we’re reminded there’s a much easier way to make state government more cost-effective.
Reduce the number of people devoted to creating laws — by downsizing Pennsylvania’s Legislature, and maybe even reducing it to part time.
Journal Register News Service