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EDITORIAL: Proposal would curtail bureaucrat power

To understand the dangers of an overactive administrative state, go back to high school civics class.

You learned that the Founding Fathers divided American government into three branches. Congress makes laws. The executive branch, led by the president, executes the laws. The judicial branch oversees legal cases and rules on constitutionality.

Each branch was given unique and distinct powers because if one branch had too much power, it could overwhelm the others. As the Declaration of Independence laid out, unrestrained centralized power is a major reason the colonists rebelled against England. They objected to “the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

These checks and balances restrain federal authority. As James Madison, writing under the pseudonym Publius, put it in Federalist 51, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” He continued, “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”

The Constitution reflected that “the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other.” But “in republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.”

That’s not the case today. For decades, Congress has passed laws delegating its authority to executive branch agencies and unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. The regulatory state has become the de facto fourth branch of government, upending the intended constitutional order.

Madison’s mistake was believing that members of Congress would prioritize power. Instead, most crave re-election. They’re happy to let bureaucrats make the rules because it helps them avoid tough, unpopular votes.

There are some elected representatives who understand the danger in this. Last year, Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., introduced the REINS Act. It would require Congress to approve major regulations that agencies sought to enact.

“During the first year of this administration, the Biden White House added more than $200B in new regulatory costs,” Rep. Cammack said in a release introducing the bill last year. These costly regulations went into effect “without the proper oversight from the legislative branch.”

The House passed this bill last June. Tellingly Southern Nevada’s three Democratic House members - Reps. Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee - opposed it. The bill is currently stalled in the Democratic-run Senate. It’s unlikely to pass until that changes. But state versions of this bill can and should be moved forward, including in Nevada.

Restoring the country’s constitutional order won’t be easy. But the REINS Act is a tangible step toward doing just that.

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EDITORIAL: Drought conditions ease considerably in the West

None of this is to say that Western states don’t need to continue aggressive conservation measures while working to compromise on a Colorado River plan that strikes a better balance between agricultural and urban water use.