Friday, July 23, 2010

The Wisdom of Brummett on Structure of Government

I have not commented on the controversy surrounding state officials use of state vehicles for personal business, mainly because Jason Tolbert summed it up nicely (and in the manner of a man who is not "in the tank") at the Tolbert Report.

As an accountant, Tolbert knows more about what the expectations are than I would, so I will remain silent when someone more knowledgeable than I has spoken. OTOH, John Brummett has also written on the issue. Like most members of the population, I am much more knowledgeable than he, especially once you subtract out all of the things that he thinks he "knows" that are not true.

In his recent article on "Boys and Their Cars" Columnist John Brummett closes with the following: "My position is that all these constitutional offices except governor, and maybe attorney general, ought to be abolished as statewide elected positions. They are clerical, custodial, antiquated and otherwise pointless.

The secretary of state, for example, might need a riding lawnmower, but that’s about all."

Well, he's wrong. The folks who wrote our state constitution were wise indeed to divide up the power of the executive branch. They had suffered under strong executives and knew the tendency of power to centralize. Even with the Arkansas Governorship being weak on paper, Gov. Mike Beebe has still managed to dominate the legislature and basically call the shots for them. Just think how much he would dominate the ledge if he had the power and the perks of the other offices under his control.

The Secretary of State, contrary to Brummett's bloviationing, should indeed be a separate office from the Governor. It may well be a custodial rather than policy making office, but how would you like being a state legislator challenging a Governor who could not only do all the things that Beebe can now do to you, but controlled your working and living quarters as well? He would also control all of the staff that you would utilize when crafting legislation.

Add to it that the Secretary of State oversees elections. Should the Governor who wants to make policy be in charge of counting the votes there or should it be entrusted to a custodian? Clearly the integrity of the process is better served when a separate, non-policy person, is conducting the election. And add to that the petitioning process is validated by the SOS. There is a decent chance that Charlie Daniels and company did not give Secure Arkansas a fair shake during the recent hoopla on their petition. The solution is not to combine the SOS with the Governor, but to elect an SOS who is more independent of the Governor than Daniels.


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