Do we need to regulate the regulators?
I think California is overregulated. I have thought this for a long time, but a new story I heard on the radio a month or so ago really drove home this notion. It wasn’t about agriculture or business, but about family law. A law eventually hitting the books stipulates that when a couple divorces and they have a pet, through the divorce proceedings the pet will go to the person who feeds and walks the pet versus the owner who purchased or adopted the pet. Really? This decision needs to be dictated by law?
In 2017, almost 900 laws were passed in California that went into effect sometime in 2018. Laws can be generated through our legislators or through propositions approved by the voters. 800 plus new bills penned to the books annually seems excessive for a state that has been generating laws for over 150 years. But how does the Golden State compare to the rest of the country? Last year, around 115 laws were adopted by the federal government, 234 in Florida and around 300 in Idaho. Hmmm…
These new laws are melded in the California Code of Regulations. There are 29 California Codes, which can be best explained as general subject areas. Food and Agriculture is called out specifically as one of these 29 codes. Besides the military, there really isn’t any other specific industry besides agriculture called out with its own code. And when you look at the titles of the other remaining 27 codes, agriculture is governed by the majority of those. By design, is agriculture overregulated? I’d say so.
How many of these new laws are really needed? That I can’t intelligently answer, but you gotta’ love Google. I did a little research and it appeared that the largest California newspapers were compelled to report on less than two dozen of these new laws at the beginning of this year. (I am sure you have seen these articles that run in early January that outline changes in California law.) This means that only 1.3% of the new laws enacted in 2017 were worth the ink and column inches needed for newspapers to call out to their readers.
Now it brings me to the “why”. Why do Californians accept this mode of doing business by our elected officials? If you think about it, we often refer to our legislatures as “lawmakers”. Maybe we should celebrate officials who are law “rescinders”? Too often, the value of a politician is based on how many bills they successfully author. As proof I offer up those “welcomed” promotional flyers we get in the mail around election time that usually lead with recognizing how many bills a legislator has supported.
I also suspect that the term limits first enacted in the late 1990s and then modified in 2012 may play a role in the rush to create new laws. The 21st century California legislator only has a short window to make their mark on California history. In the “old days” our assembly members and senators were able to run out their last terms in office by celebrating their earlier successes. This end game would have resulted in less bills brought forth from both the lower and upper houses.
I propose three things. First, for every new law that is added to the books, an obsolete law or a law that contradicts the new law must be removed. Second, there should be check-in points for all laws that govern us. Say every five years a team of level-headed, taxpaying citizens review a law to determine if its benefits outweigh its costs. If it is determined that a law is more detrimental to our state than it is effective, we scrap it or at least rework it. And thirdly, we celebrate an elected official who works toward decreasing frivolous laws.
Maybe we should create a law that limits the number of laws that can go into effect each year. On no…I am starting to sound like them!