WHY RED TAPE IS “RED”

How do you trim an extensive bureaucracy? Republicans in the State legislature have a rather interesting solution: Increase the size of that bureaucracy. Two recent bills in the Pennsylvania legislature this year disclose the convoluted Republican thought processes that go into creating bad legislation in the name of good government.

Consider, first, House Bill 1659, introduced by Mike Tobash (Rep., Schuylkill, Dauphin), which would require healthy adults without dependents to either “work, perform community service, participate in a work program or be enrolled as a full-time student” to receive more than 3 months of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. For adults with children, Rep. Kristin Hill (Rep., York) has introduced House Bill 1559, which would require them to “cooperate with the department’s division of child support services in establishing paternity of the child and in establishing, modifying or enforcing a support order with respect to the child.” One might wonder about the intent of these bills since, there is little evidence of SNAP recipients profiting from the sale of such benefits. Like voter registration laws, these bills are representative of a solution in search of a problem.   And while these bills could result in withholding benefits to citizens of this Commonwealth, they would add additional administrative costs to a budget that Republicans have predicated upon the dictum of “borrow and spend.”

Nor have Republicans restricted expansion of bureaucratic spending to benefits for the needy. Brian R. Butler has introduced House Bill 1960, which would create a new position for a Regulatory Compliance Officer in each state agency. This officer would have the authority to block an agency from imposing fines and penalties for violations, and to rewrite the policies under which fines and penalties are imposed. The language of the bill is vague enough to forestall or even dismiss penalties when a violator asks for clarification on the violation, or even when a violator discloses the violation to the authorities. This bill would thus free polluters from punishment if they claim confusion over their misconduct, or if they simply make the authorities aware of the problem.

“Red tape” correctly identifies the color of the party responsible for these bills, which would do nothing except to bloat the current size of the State government. Just one more reason to turn PA blue.

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