Man­date is good

Glenside News - - OPINION -

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.

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