Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Legislative Oversight

There is something very strange going on in the Arkansas State Treasurer's Office.     The Treasurer handles the state's bonds, or I should say, handles the process of contracting bond dealing business out to a list of bond dealers in the state.   From here, it sure looks like there was some "churning" going on- financially unnecessary transactions designed to generate profits for the financial advisers instead of earnings for the client.  

Westerman calls for more over sight

The selection of one tiny firm for an immense share of the business (resulting in two million dollars in commissions being paid to what appears to be a one-man operation working out of a house) has also raised eyebrows.    In addition, although this part gets complicated and there are many possible explanations, the interest rates the state gets on these instruments appears to have been manipulated so that the taxpayers wind up with a less favorable outcome than one might expect.   This comes on the heels of widespread price-fixing in the use of pools of taxpayer money in locales across the nation.

In that environment were were pleased to hear new State House Minority Leader Bruce Westerman (who was rated one of the Ten Best Legislators by our panel) has told the media that he expects there will be more "legislative oversight" of the Treasurer's Office.

Legislative Oversight.   That's a term I'd like to see come back in vogue.   Our system of government was originally designed for the Legislative Branch to be the first among equals.  This is both because power is more dispersed in this branch and also because the legislature is closer to and most accountable to, the people.     They are the ones who are supposed to write the law.  The executive is merely in place to execute the laws they write, and the judicial exists (in theory) only to interpret that law.

Of course, we have drifted far from our foundings.   These days, the legislature is largely irrelevant at both state and national levels.  Presidents decide to get involved in wars without permission from Congress, and even decide which laws they will enforce and which they will not.   Judges issue dictatorial bench-legislation, even ordering legislatures to spend more money despite the fact that the power of the purse strings is the most fundamental legislative power.  Why, the legislature even goes along with whole areas of state government being carved up into fiefdoms where the People's Branch is shut out!

The two party system is ultimately to blame for our dysfunction government with "representatives" that don't represent anyone back home anymore.  If the head of the executive is of their party, they defer to him and vote how he (or she) wants rather than how the folks back home want.   If they are of the opposite party, the same practices that were acceptable before become unacceptable now.

I am glad Rep. Westerman wants the legislature to take their responsibilities seriously.  We need more of it.  I can tell you right now that I have been up there, and even the bureaucrats don't hesitate to mislead the legislators.   The ledge needs to stand up, not for itself, but for the people it is supposed to represent.     I expect that the Republicans will take the majority of the legislature this cycle.   The tendency toward "oversight" will intensify.   Should a Republican win the Governor's office, my concern is that the tendency toward "legislative oversight" will vanish- just as it did when the Democrats controlled both branches.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I am all for more legislative oversight. I hope the trend lasts....

7:29 AM, September 19, 2012  
Anonymous Alex White said...

That it never occurs to our State legislature that oversight is their most important function of is baffling. It is more important than collecting money (because responsible money management is prerequisite to getting more of it).

10:08 AM, September 19, 2012  

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