John Florez: Madame speaker, get them all to quit whining

Published: Monday, Jan. 10 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

"Stop your whining and just do it." That's what my wife tells me as I try to get sympathy for having a messy closet. I have a million T-shirts I can't get rid of; even the one from my little league coaching days. This year I took her advice; I got rid of three T-shirts. It took courage, but it's a start.

So I'm thinking, with Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, the first woman ever as Utah's Speaker of the House (in my house "woman speaker" would be redundant), this legislative session will be different; I hope our lawmakers will stop their whining about big government and clean house. Maybe their new leader will help them see that the mess of laws they have created, like my old T-shirts, are just clutter that keeps them from doing the people's business; while they enjoy passing laws, these also add to the government bloating they complain about — more regulations, more bureaucrats needed to write them, more regulators and more compliance workers to make sure they are followed.

By the time a government agency is through writing policies and regulations to implement the new laws, any relation to their original intent is purely coincidental. Bureaucrats write them to protect themselves. That's why regulations are written in great detail, directing the process to be followed so "nothing can happen on their watch," and then are bound in elaborate agency policy manuals. John W. Gardner said it best, "The last dying breath of a bureaucracy is to write another policy in the policy manual."

With new leadership, I'm guessing there will be a lot of getting rid of clutter and waste and remodeling our government closets. She may be asking why don't we get rid of old laws and regulations that only create inertia in our economy, and begin delivering timely public service in a more cost-effective way? Rather than studies to make government more efficient, she might be concerned about making it more effective, including getting rid of outdated offices instead of keeping them around like my old coaching T-shirt.

She might even ask why don't we listen and respond to the concerns of our people instead of special interest groups; and when we receive a legislative audit, why don't we make sure corrective action is taken instead of letting it gather dust on the shelf? That's stewardship.

I hope she will do what others have not had the courage to do — exercise oversight responsibilities in making sure each government agency is carrying out its legislative mandate; either renew its mission or get rid of it. That's leadership. She could start with having committee leaders review the departments with oversight hearings, asking the following questions: Why was the department created? What problem was it designed to solve? How has the world changed since then? Has the problem changed, or does it still exist? What needs to be done to renew its mission for today's environment? How does it measure success? Should the department even exist?

Making sure our institutions work to solve today's problems is more critical than ever before. Our people are hurting and crying out for leaders who can pull us together as others have done in the past. Business-as-usual will not do. Individuals, businesses and families are hurting and need leaders who strive to meet today's challenges.

So, Madam Speaker of the House, tell them to stop whining about big government and just fix it. We will be cheering for you.

A Utah native, John Florez has founded several Hispanic civil rights organizations; been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served on more than 45 state, local and volunteer boards; and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and as a member of the commission on Hispanic education. E-mail: jdflorez@comcast.net.

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