HOITENGA: Government overreach has gotten out of control

A memorable Detroit Lions game this year was the team’s one-point loss to the Green Bay Packers. Detroit seemed to be playing against additional and powerful opponents – the referees. The Lions were crushed by some unbelievable penalty calls while players and spectators stood by and watched helplessly.

That game describes much of today's governmental landscape. Government bureaucrats are the referees, calling the definitive and sometimes unfair shots. Hard-working citizens are the players and spectators.

Referees, like bureaucrats, are a necessity – but what happens when they weaken the legitimacy and integrity of the institution they were intended to serve?

In high school civics, we learned about the system of checks and balances in government developed to ensure that no one branch of government would become too powerful. The framers of the U.S. Constitution built a system that divides power between the three branches — legislative, executive and judicial.

Civics class never taught us about the fourth branch of government: A bureaucratic branch with a stronger impact than all the others combined.

Our system of checks and balances is now overrun by a self-governing administrative state of expansive departments. Just like the referees, the bureaucrats can make unreasonable, biased judgments and even set a monetary fine when they determine a person is breaking the rules. They have the final say and there is no recourse for the spectators to undo the call.

Many of the “laws” governing the people are rules and regulations crafted and issued by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. These regulations are often regarded as protective measures for citizens or the environment.

There are some who believe government knows best — but history has repeatedly shown us that is not always the case. Many governmental decisions have turned out to be harmful, rife with unintended consequences.

Here are just a few recent examples:

• Last month, the Legislature had to intervene after the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) tried to use its rule-making authority in a way that would have prevented counselors from practicing in Michigan. This would have hurt mental health services across the state, resulting in the loss of jobs and mental health services for our most vulnerable people.

• The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) is currently drafting extreme permitting rules that will negatively impact our larger family farms. Meanwhile, concerned legislators are frantically writing opposition letters to the department on behalf of the farmers they represent, asking for scientific reasons for these changes.

• The Marijuana Regulatory Agency, which is part of LARA, recently proposed rules that would require marijuana retailers and growers to reach union agreements as a condition of getting a state license. If this takes effect, it would be outright government extortion: Join a union or don’t get a license to operate.

Some of the worst culprits of departmental overreach lie within the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Commission (NRC). The NRC recently banned baiting in Michigan with complete disregard for the ineffectiveness of bans in all the others states where they were enacted.

I am contacted weekly by day-care providers who are inundated with rules and regulations that are literally putting them out of business.

The list of “laws” made by bureaucrats goes on and on and on.

With due respect to the state agencies, they are certainly not solely to blame. Legislators continue to make unnecessary laws forcing the creation or expansion of these agencies. For every law a legislator creates, an agency must enforce it.

Legislators should spend more time targeting the unnecessary, job-killing mandates created by the fourth branch of government, rather than backing legislation that expands the powers of these agencies.

Unless someone wants to introduce legislation requiring NFL referees to go through a quality assurance program — that would have my full support.

State Rep. Michele Hoitenga, a Republican, represents residents of Wexford and Mecosta counties, as well as Reed City and the townships of Burdell, Cedar, Hartwick, LeRoy, Lincoln, Richmond and Rose Lake in Osceola County.