BY MICHAEL R. DAVIS:
With every new perceived emergency, we witness a rise in the power of the administrative state. Agencies with no accountability to the people or the government’s elected officers. Even when there is no emergency, the growth of the administrative state goes quietly unnoticed. Fighting the growth of the leviathan is not as difficult as it seems. Action can be taken at the state level.
The administrative state has grown so large and complex that it can no longer be held accountable by the citizenry or elected officials. The Federal Register currently has 71,222 pages of complex codes and regulations which is an increase of 2,104 pages from 2019. There are currently more than 2.1 million civilian workers in the federal workforce across more than 400 agencies. Congress has become dependent upon administrative agencies to interpret and enforce the laws it passes while leaving it to the courts to interpret whether the agencies are operating in accordance with congressional consent. At each step of the process the citizens get further removed from the process. This process can be reversed at the state level.
The states are showing the same frightening trend as the national government. With most state legislatures operating on a part time basis, most states leave it to the administrative agencies to do most of the rule making and enforcement. Citizens are supposed to be the ultimate source of authority in the United States. Our Founders instituted elections so citizens can voice their will and hold their officials accountable. But, the more complex the government becomes, and the more that is given to the administrative state, the further removed ordinary citizens are from the governing process. The solution is to pass state constitutional amendments that thwart the growth of the administrative state. With a model amendment that focuses on a few simple points, the government can once again be held responsible by the people.
First, the model amendment should require each line of the budget allocation to be accompanied by a mission statement that provides clear direction to administrators and judges. This also gives voters line of sight to legislative intent so that voters can assess for themselves if the rule is being implemented as the legislature had intended. Second, relevant Key Performance Indicators must be associated with each program and dollar allocation. This will allow for greater transparency and oversight while reinforcing legislative intent. By putting in place accountability metrics at the outset, citizens and legislators can accurately assess how well an administrative agency is doing.
The third component requires an annual report by the state’s governor. Since the governor sits at the top of the administrative branch, this report is a way for the governor to review the performance of those that report to her and for the citizens and legislators to hold the governor accountable for what has or has not been done well.
Given the size and complexity of government, the average voter — and even the average legislator — has no hope of being able to track everything going on. This model amendment would give voters shorthand information about what each part of government is trying to do and how effective it has been.
The national government is so overrun with special interests and complexity that the states should get a renewed focus in the battle against the administrative state. Once these measures demonstrate their efficacy at the state level they can be scaled to the national. It is a more practical and republican process of policy making to work up from the states to the national.
We urge those states that value the principles of our Founding Fathers to embrace these moves to transparency and oversight to combat the rise of the administrative state. It is through these measures that the people, and the institutions through which they voice their will, can reclaim the stature they were intended to.