1-1-15 – A Modest Proposal for the Legislature in 2015

Posted by Rob Roper

Montpelier loves to stand on moral soapboxes and decree in booming voices mandates, the consequences of which that the rest of us have to live with – intended and unintended. It’s what they do.

One that they will be debating again this year is a mandate that small businesses provided paid sick leave to their employees. A recent VPR story quoted Jeff Larson, an employer of sixteen, about the impact this will have:

“Right now we as a small business have the flexibility of winking at the early leave – somebody has a soccer game their daughter’s playing in, they can head out at 3:30 and catch the game,” Larson says.

But he says he has enough to worry about as it is without having to administer another government mandate.

“Moving into something more mandated, something where we’re accountable for hours worked, the accumulation of hours due, the hours that were taken, for something that we’re already providing, we just don’t feel it necessary, and it could add a level of accounting that takes extra time.” (VPR, 12/31/14)

And, of course, time is money for any business as well as opportunity cost and the possibilities for penalties for non-compliance. Maybe our legislators don’t care about these things, or maybe they just don’t have the imagination to understand their impact.

So here is my modest proposal….

Each committee of the state house and senate will be treated like a small business. Each committee chair will be considered its “owner,” and members considered employees. As such, each committee will be obligated to fill out and file all the paperwork required of any other small business in Vermont – healthcare forms, workers compensation, tax forms, etc. – as well as any paperwork associated with legislation being actively debated in any committee.

For example, with the sick leave bill being debated, each committee chair will have to keep a detailed log of the hours each of their members spends in committee (and doesn’t), calculate hours of sick leave accumulated, record hours of sick time taken, and file them with a proper authority for review.

Only committees in full compliance with all regulations will be allowed to pass legislation out of their own committee.

“That’s crazy!” some will say. “We’ll never get anything done! It’s a waste of precious time and resources to make legislators jump through all these hoops when there is important work that needs attention. We’re not here to fill out paperwork, we’ve got a job to do!”

Well, yeah. That’s kind of the point. And as they used to say on the playground, don’t dish it out if you can’t take it. Maybe this will teach our legislators some important lessons. At worst, it would divert their time and attention away from creating more mandates for the rest of us to follow. Watching them comply would certainly make for a Happy 2015!

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Alex Knight January 1, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Here’s my not-so-modest proposal: Remove them all from office summarily, abolish their positions, and raze that gold-domed abomination to the ground and build something useful to take its place — a factory that creates jobs, maybe — instead of a building that houses parasites.



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