Last week I wrote that it should be the goal of the Legislature to reduce the number of laws. Over the years, the number of state statutes has greatly increased, even though voters elected a new wave of small government conservatives.
Some may have felt that the vision articulated in last week’s article was a bit naive. You may recall the accompanying photo that showed Oklahoma’s 2011 law books towering over their counterparts from 2001. Can we really stop the out-of-control creation of new laws?
A possible solution has recently been discussed by various House members: What if Oklahoma adopted a system used by other states where policy proposals only could be considered every other year?
This would have three key benefits.
First, it would cut down on the amount of proposed laws. The proposals that are frivolous or unnecessary may not survive the test of time created by the two-year interval. This would result in fewer new laws, and when this reform is accompanied by our continued repealer efforts, perhaps we could reach our goal of repealing old laws as quickly as new ones are approved.
Second, legislators would be given a free hand to focus on the state budget in the non-policy years. Lawmakers constantly and correctly complain of their inability to get a handle on government spending. They appropriate millions of dollars each year only to be attacked for more money from the very recipients of that money during the ensuing months. They don’t have time to follow up and monitor the new spending before they are placed under the gun for even more.
When faced with the challenge of voting on and sponsoring policy, these lawmakers don’t focus on budget accountability as carefully as they should. They know they are falling short and not meeting the expectation of taxpayers to provide good stewardship, and it bothers them. They want the opportunity for more oversight!
Partly because of this sentiment, the House and Senate have made significant progress toward enhancing the budget oversight infrastructure. Both chambers have approved committees to monitor non-appropriated spending and the House has significantly expanded its appropriations subcommittees. They would benefit from an oversight environment in which they can solely focus on and expose the millions of wasteful spending that constantly occurs within state and local government. This will provide them with much more strength to resist the countless cries for new funding.
Third, it’s important to realize that many regulations occur through the propagation of agency-issued rules. A year free of policy proposals would allow our administrative rules overseers to greatly increase oversight of proposed rules. Perhaps lawmakers could even start repealing existing rules.
This common-sense reform would empower lawmakers to carry out their true responsibility to the taxpayers, as opposed to considering new and unnecessary laws every year.
Please mark your calendar for 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at Waterloo Road Baptist Church for the House District 31 town hall meeting. Our invited guest is House Speaker T.W. Shannon. If you can attend, I look forward to seeing you there.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.