Drain the Swamp?: Mississippi’s administrative state has a democratic deficit

By Mississippi Center for Public Policy
May 26, 2022

Mississippi’s administrative state has a major democratic deficit, according to a new report published today.

Of the 222 state government bureaucracies reviewed in the report, only 5 percent are headed by a directly elected official. The state Senate only confirms a small minority of appointees to other key positions.

According to the report, published by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the administrative state in Mississippi has the ability to spend money and decide on public policy without reference to the public. 81% of bureaucratic spending comes from agencies run by appointed leaders with very little regulatory accountability.

The report acknowledges that certain departments or boards are essential to the success of Mississippi, but that there are dozens of agencies the state could probably do without. Might not Mississippi be able to manage without an Interior Design Advisory Committee?

“When people talk about ‘draining the swamp,’ they usually mean Washington D.C.,” explained CEO & President Douglas Carswell. “Our research shows that there is a ‘swamp’ here in Mississippi that needs dealing with, too.”

In order to assess the entire administrative state of Mississippi, we analyzed four elements of 222 state boards, agencies and commissions: accountability, spending power and size, regulatory power and function. Our findings reveal that while much of the state bureaucracy is unaccountable, it is well-resourced and has expanded in terms of its regulatory remit.

“We reviewed 222 state-based bureaucratic organizations here in Mississippi, and we discovered that there is a serious accountability deficit,” Carswell said. “Big, powerful bureaucratic organizations are able to impose rules and spend public money without meaningful accountability to the public.”

What should we do about the administrative state of Mississippi? How can we hold these bureaucrats accountable, and how can we better manage the regulations and functionality of these boards? We at the Mississippi Center for Public Policy have some suggestions.

1. Rein in the broad discretion given to bureaucrats by laying out parameters for regulations and requiring routine audits

2. Establish more grassroots accountability through elections by expanding the amount of elected, rather than appointed agency representatives

3. Look at the possibility of term limits for high-level officials to help remove the problems that can come from a system of career-centered bureaucrats

4. Consolidate or eliminate certain entities to save taxpayer dollars

5. Put in a sunset provision that requires any new regulation to be automatically repealed after a certain period of time if not extended, in order to eliminate the overbearing regulatory authority

6. Require all unelected regulators to submit annual public reports to the legislature outlining enforcement actions, subjecting these entities to higher scrutiny

The Mississippi Center for Public Policy believes “draining the swamp” would have a positive impact on the state by eliminating unnecessary agencies that negatively hold back citizens, while also ensuring those in power do not have an overabundance of money and control.

You can read the full report here.

For media inquiries, please contact Tyler B. Jones, tyler@mspolicy.org.

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