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Ray Haynes

Mr. Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and Temecula. He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to Assembly Member Haynes website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]

Still Cluelessly Creating Commissions
And still not getting it...
[Ray Haynes] 9/7/04

Commissions are truly an institution that only a politician could love. Normal people do not like them, do not want to pay for them, do not think they do any good, and believe that they only exist so that politicians can claim they are doing something about a problem, while providing jobs and/or soapboxes for their supporters on the public dime. They bring to mind Shakespeare’s line about “being full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

One of the most frequent complaints I get in my office is that there are too many of these commissions, that they are controlled by special interests and/or industry insiders, and that when you do need them, they are totally non-responsive. Indeed, probably the most popular part of Governor Schwarzenegger’s recent California Performance Review report (admittedly written by another commission) dealt with it’s proposal to eliminate and consolidate as many as 118 of the 339 state commissions and boards in our state. His promise to “blow up the boxes” of state government is one of the biggest applause lines in his public rallies.

And yet some of my colleagues in Sacramento apparently missed the memo.

During the final weeks of session, as we plowed through hundreds of bills, I noticed that far too many of them did little more than add new commissions, boards, task forces and councils to the bureaucratic heap we were supposed to be shrinking. In the middle of the last week, I started to try to count the new programs and groups we were passing. This is nowhere near exhaustive, only includes those passed in the last few days, and no doubt missed many that were hidden too deeply within bills to be easily found in the little time we had to review the legislation. With that caveat, here is the unofficial tally from the last couple of sessions: Nine task forces, eight councils, six commissions, two bureaus, a monitor, a new committee for an existing council, and a strike force.

A strike force? Wow! That sounds good, doesn’t it? I can almost feel our business climate improving already! Who says we don’t do anything in Sacramento? Certainly not those targeted by the “strike force”!

I was unable to write down each of them, but some that particularly stuck in my mind either because of the subject matter, or the obscurity or pomposity of the title include the new California Ocean Council, the Global Gateways Development Council, the Marine Managed Areas Water Quality Task Force, the very serious sounding Maritime Port Strategic Master Plan Task Force, and the Big Brother-ish sounding Master Plan for Infant and Toddler Care Task Force. You’ll also be happy to know that among the new programs we created, we’ll now be officially licensing and labeling trucks as “Registered Interceptor Grease Haulers”.

One new commission that sounds like it would be popular with some of the wackier talk radio listeners who have been calling my office so frequently is the “Mexican Repatriation Commission.” But really, what is the chance that this group is really about repatriating illegal aliens? The answer is “none.” It’s actually to spend time, money, and effort revisiting 60-year old civil rights violations by our government. A tragedy, no doubt, but is it really something that has to be examined by a new commission? Of course not.

But like all the rest of them, it will allow legislators to show they care and give interest groups another place to shout and commiserate about wrongs past, present and future.

This partial list of new commissions and programs won’t single-handedly cause the final bankruptcy of our state, but it again proves the point that our legislators are missing the point. We are not in the trouble we are in today because we have too few committees working on the problems, but because we are unwilling to stop building new layers of bureaucracy, new regulations, new programs, and start dismantling them.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “I've searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” If Governor Schwarzenegger can actually get some of his Performance Review enacted and eliminate some of these new baby bureaucracies, maybe we can make a statue of him “blowing up the boxes.”

But we’ll probably need a new commission to design it… CRO


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