In Act III of Scene 2 in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Brutus proclaims that it is not that he loved Caesar less but that he loved Rome more. That statement is much more profound than the initial impression might offer, and it is also as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago. It illustrates the dilemma that is faced each day by elected officials not in Rome but in Augusta.
I refer to the constant moral battle of conscience in choosing between a number of options that will have the least damaging impact on constituents or perhaps the whole state of Maine. I would avoid using the term “lesser of two evils,” because I do not believe that any bill submitted to the Legislature is intrinsically evil. I would defer, as in Brutus’ case, to the term “greater of two goods,” which also could be debated. Incidentally, in Caesar’s case, he was neither elected to power nor was he in power legally.
To place all this in context, for this present purpose: In each two-year legislative session there are approximately 1,500 to 2,000 bills submitted by senators, representatives, departments, agencies and the governor. Thankfully, most of these bills die in committee, but many do not. What I have come to realize, after some frustrating experiences, is that in a number of these bills, elected officials have surprisingly little to say as to whether they pass or fail. We have another whole entity, what I refer to as the “fifth column,” that appears suddenly to intervene and dictate what we can or cannot do with little compromise.
This entity will inform us that we, the elected officials, are simply streamlining a mandate or resolution. We are simply removing an unforeseen glitch in the regulation. We are informed that it will change essentially nothing. Why then, did it become so necessary to have our approval?
This “fifth column” appears in the form of state agencies, departments and bureaus that have evolved to a point where they are no longer under the control or jurisdiction of elected officials. Instead, they appear to be governed by officials or commissioners and have basically become autonomous entities or kingdoms unto themselves.
These entities are removed from scrutiny and near to being sovereign. They are elite and not to be questioned. In many cases, legislators simply become rubber stamps or pawns in approving rules and regulations that these officials submit on a regular basis. The end result is that these official kingdoms become more and more powerful, more and more intrusive, and less and less accountable to anyone. They operate with impunity.
The results for the citizens can be a loss of freedom and a loss of individual rights. Property rights and ownership of land become nominal and the individual’s only remaining responsibility is to make sure that his or her taxes are paid on a timely basis.
In summary, other consequences will result from this gradual devolution of elected responsibility. Here we are talking about the loss of jobs, the shutting down of industry, the bringing of manufacturing to a halt and the raising of one’s personal and property taxes.
Major losses in tax income from large corporations can cause grave and negative impact on small Maine communities. Industry and businesses will simply refuse to meet these various state department mandated rules and regulations, primarily because it would bankrupt them. They will simply be forced to pack up and leave Maine.
Remember, very few of these departments or department heads create jobs. What we can do as a state is create an atmosphere that is friendly to business and less adverse to industry.
We can do this by creating a DIP, a Department of Industry Protection that will assist industry and businesses to complete the mountains of forms and applications that all these state agencies seem to require when attempting to start a business in Maine.
Rep. Bernard Ayotte, R-Caswell, is serving his second term in the Maine House of Representatives representing District 3, which includes Caswell, Grand Isle, Hamlin, Limestone, New Sweden, Van Buren, Woodland, Cyr Plantation and the Unorganized Territory of Connor Township.