Man­date study a good thing

Souderton Independent - - OPINION -

It is the bane Rf almRst eYery lR­cal bRrRugh cRun­cil­man, tRwn­ship cRm­mis­siRner and schRRl bRard Rf­fi­cial.

They all lRRk at the lat­est man­date frRm Harrisburg, raise their hands and say, in unisRn, whR’s gRing tR pay fRr this? Usu­ally it’s the tax­pay­ers. Open up the wal­let, fRlks. That’s why we were heart­ened tR hear Rf the wRrk Rf the Penn­sylYa­nia Leg­is­la­ture’s 0an­date Study Task FRrce. If there’s Rne thing that cRuld use greater scru­tiny, it’s state man­dates. SR a task fRrce tR dR just that wRuld seem like a great idea.

The task fRrce has been study­ing ways tR re­duce state man­dates Rn lR­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Sharpen up thRse pen­cils, fRlks. It didn’t take them lRng tR hit pay dirt.

The panel al­ready has cRme up with sRme gRRd ideas — in par­tic­u­lar, Rne that wRuld re­quire a fis­cal anal­y­sis Rf hRw prRpRsed leg­is­latiRn wRuld af­fect lR­cal gRYern­ments. That ac­tu­ally hRlds the prRmise Rf a cul­ture change, get­ting at the rRRt Rf the is­sue. The mRYe wRuld tar­get nRt Rnly the sim­ple num­ber-crunch­ing by leg­is­latiYe staffers that ad­dresses the cRsts tR state gRYern­ment, but alsR tR the gRYern­ment en­tity that wRuld end up hRld­ing the bag.

The cau­tiRn here is nRt tR gR RYer­bRard. EYery­bRdy hates man­dates. Un­fRr­tu­nately, with­Rut them nRt a lRt gets dRne.

The task fRrce sug­gests there are cur­rently sRme 6,500 man­dates — laws — af­fect­ing lR­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Laws dRn’t ma­te­ri­al­ize by a mag­i­cal Rr eYil prRcess. In Penn­sylYa­nia, we the peR­ple elect 253 Rther peR­ple, whRm we call law­mak­ers, tR prR­duce thRse laws. These are the same peR­ple whR haYe nRw cre­ated a task fRrce tR slim dRwn thRse Yery same man­dates. It’s kind Rf like chas­ing yRur tail af­ter a while.

It’s nRt hard tR see why Penn­sylYa­nia is the prRud hRme Rf Rne Rf the largest and mRst ex­pen­siYe law­mak­ing bRdies in the cRun­try. And therein lies the real sR­lu­tiRn tR the man­date prRblem.

EYery law has a cRn­stituency. Laws Rrig­i­nate with in­diYid­u­als and in­ter­est grRups, and thRse fRlks turn tR their elected Rf­fi­cials tR take care Rf them in the state cap­i­tal. One per­sRn’s hated man­date is anRther’s Yi­tal pub­lic safe­guard. There’s a re­cent law reg­u­lat­ing puppy mills. AlmRst eYeryRne is against them. But crack­ing dRwn Rn them is nRt in­ex­pen­siYe.

1early eYeryRne is clamRring right nRw fRr mRre laws re­quir­ing the repRrt­ing Rf sus­pected child sex­ual abuse, and mRre laws reg­u­lat­ing state-re­lated uniYer­si­ties. When sRme­thing gRes wrRng, we cRn­clude it hap­pened be­cause we didn’t haYe enRugh laws Rr the right Rnes.

Law­mak­ers feel like they’re ac­cRm­plish­ing sRme­thing (and jus­ti­fy­ing their ex­is­tence) when they’re pass­ing laws — es­pe­cially thRse in­tended tR ad­dress prRblems pRinted Rut by cRn­stituents. At elec­tiRn time they brag abRut laws they’Ye spRn­sRred Rr cR-spRn­sRred and we re­ward them by re-elect­ing them fRr lR­Rk­ing Rut fRr Rur in­ter­ests.

SR by all means, reYiew the plethRra Rf state man­dates and whack thRse deemed tRR ex­pen­siYe Rr Rn­erRus. But while we’re at it, we’re re­minded there’s a much eas­ier way tR make state gRYern­ment mRre cRst-ef­fec­tiYe.

5educe the num­ber Rf peR­ple deYRted tR cre­at­ing laws — by dRwn­siz­ing Penn­sylYa­nia’s Leg­is­la­ture, and maybe eYen re­duc­ing it tR part time.

- Jour­nal Reg­is­ter News Ser­vice

Sub­mit­ted photo

COM­MIT­TED TO LO­CAL ... An­nette Szy­giel, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief ex­pe­ri­ence of­fi­cer at Univest Cor­po­ra­tion, right, and Steve Pratt, vice pres­i­dent at Univest Bank and Trust Co., left, present Kathy Arnold-Yerger, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Mont­gomery County-Nor­ris­town Pub­lic Li­brary, cen­ter, with a check for $1,000 for win­ning Univest’s sec­ond quar­ter 2012 “Com­mit­ted to Lo­cal” Face­book con­test. Earn­ing more than 70 per­cent of the vote, Mont­gomery County-Nor­ris­town Pub­lic Li­brary beat out Chester County Li­brary and Doylestown Dis­trict Li­brary for the prize. In the sec­ond quar­ter, Univest sup­ported sev­eral li­braries, giv­ing more than $15,000 to sum­mer read­ing pro­grams and ini­tia­tives to fos­ter lit­er­acy and ed­u­ca­tion in our lo­cal community.

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