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Business, Free Enterprise and Constitutional Issues; Pro-Life and Pro Second Amendment. Susan Lynn is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. She serves as Chairman of the Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee, a member of the Finance Ways and Means Committee and the Ethics Committee. She holds a BS in economics and a minor in history.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Boards and Commissions the Subject of Political Points of View

As Session ends, the House and the Senate differ on amendments for legislation regarding appointments to boards and commissions, and the bills may head to conference committee. In question is whether appointments to a handful of regulatory boards and commissions should be strictly political appointments or if a merit based system is best; one which provides the regulated industries a say in who represents their profession or trade.

Approximately 112 different professions and trades are licensed by regulatory boards and commissions in Tennessee. This represents thousands of business people across our state. As a result, each licensed individual is subject to an extensive amount of state law and regulation over what they do.

The duty of a board or commission involves issuing licenses to practice, deciding on certain industry regulations and standards, and hearing complaints against a licensee.

Boards and commissions typically include members of the executive branch of state government such as the Commissioner of Health, Labor, or Commerce. Other appointees may include members of the legislative branch such as state legislators, the State Treasurer, Comptroller or Secretary of State. Members of the regulated profession or trade are also appointed to serve. In addition, a consumer member is appointed.

Boards often meet a few days a month. Members are not paid but some boards and commissions have the authority to grant a per diem for compensation of gas and hotel expenses - typically up to $50.00 a day maximum. “Some members do complain that their service poses a significant loss of time and income – so finding dedicated individuals to serve is critical.” stated State Rep. Susan Lynn, Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee.

Most board and commission members are appointed by the governor. However, a few select boards require a very high degree of technical knowledge, commitment and experience. For these, the General Assembly has developed a process that allows the regulated professions and trades to nominate individuals that they feel are qualified, experienced and willing to make a personal sacrifice to represent their industry.

The current process requires that several nominations are received from the industry with a final decision made by the Governor. If the Governor finds all nominees are unsatisfactory, he may reject all nominations and request more from the industry. “The current process has worked well and the industry has felt as if it is well represented. Who doesn’t realize that it is only natural to every politician to appoint people that will best serve their own self-interest not society as a whole? Or at least that is the publics’ strong perception. The current process has taken that kind of politics out of the mix, and allowed the regulated business people to have a voice.” stated Chairman Lynn; House sponsor of the bills in question.

However this year the Senate Gov. Ops. Committee wants to remove any say by the regulated trades and professions over who will serve their industry. Instead, the Senate has proposed leaving the appointments for these technical boards strictly up to the Governor; a process which creates fear over political patronage and the injection unnecessary politics into the process. The Senate committee concedes that no one has requested their proposed change but they still want to make all appointments political appointments starting this year.

Lynn noted that “it is not only industry that will lose their ability to ensure competent and knowledgeable representatives on boards of vital interest to them – local governments too will lose the same opportunity.”

This week Attorney General Bob Cooper stated in an opinion requested by Senator Bo Watson, Chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, that the current process of allowing the trades and professions to submit nominations from which the Governor shall choose is indeed constitutional.

The Air Pollution Control Board makes regulatory decisions which are crucial to business and industry in our state regarding air pollution as well as to those groups with environmental concerns. The interests and views of the two sides can at times differ greatly.

The point has always been to nominate people to the Air Pollution Control Board based on merit; people that truly understand the technical aspects of the issue. Environmental and business trades currently nominate members to serve. It is in each sides best interest to recommend to the governor the most highly qualified and competent voice they can find. However, if the board is subject to strictly political appointments the fear is that sides will be prevented from having who they perceive to be the very best representative for their side of the cause.

“The Senate’s amendments are very governmentcentric. They assume politicians’ and government know best. The regulated industries are already subject to the whims and opinions of politicians to a very high degree. Politicians create the law that governs their trade, then a board made up of politicians and political appointees makes regulations for what they can and cannot do, and also judges how they do their jobs. To me, the few boards and commissions that have industry nominations are the most Republican. It is the people that make nominations to these boards and commissions but for some reason the Senate wants to take away the peoples’ voice.” stated Chairman Lynn.

“I have reviewed the legislation from the Senate and listened to legislators and concerned parties. I have not heard from Governor Bredesen…he has not stated that he wants sole decision making authority over appointments to these boards and commissions but I have heard from realtors, dentists, architects, engineers, chiropractors, auto dealers and physicians who are afraid of mere political appointees representing them. One individual said to me “Look, government is supposed to be for the people, by the people and of the people – why is the Senate trying to exclude us from the process and hand absolutely everything over to the politicians?” Stated Lynn.

Lynn further commented “I understand how he feels. Right now I am trying to pass another bill that would ensure that initial rules created for licensure can never be emergency rules because emergency rules exclude public input.”

Lynn added “There are nearly 2000 appointments to be made on boards and commissions each year – the Governor could literally spend all day, every day, looking for people to serve. The current process, while it may not be perfect, does cut down on that work for a small quantity while making sure that the people are involved and have a voice.”

Susan Lynn is a four term Tennessee state House member and Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee. She is also the Chairman of the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council; currently in her second term. She is the only member of the Tennessee House ever appointed by ALEC to chair a Task Force.


Anonymous said...

Good evening, Representative Lynn. Let me first say that many of us appreciate all of your efforts to keep common sense in play in our state government. Those of us who live in this district are lucky to have you working for us - truly representing our best interests in the General Assembley.

Regarding the section below on the state regulatory boards - you can add pharmacists to the list of concerned individuals in our state.

Political appointments have no place on regulatory boards that ultimately are charged with ensuring the safety of the general public. Who is better to regulate our professions than those who must fully understand the laws and board rules governing the practice of that profession in this state.

We must be able to have a say in who is regulating us, and politics should be left out of it.

Thanks again for all your hard work.

Corey Caillouet, PharmD
Leah Kingery, D.Ph

Anonymous said...

So only those people who pay dues and sign up and belong to certain professional private special interest groups are allowed to serve on these boards under your proposal?? What about those qualified attorneys with legal experience who are not part of the TN Bar Association, or other special interest groups and lobbying groups?

Sorry, but i think every Tennessean who is qualified to serve on these boards ought be able to do so, and that having lobbyists and liberal special interests groups control our boards is not the way to go...hopefully the Senate version of this bill will pass and not yours.

Thank you for your service, however I think you are wrong on this one Rep. Lynn.


Representative Susan Lynn said...

Let me first tell you that these 63 bills are not my bills – as chairman of the Gov Ops Committee it is my duty to carry the bills.

The bills belong to the House as a whole – and the leadership of the House has strong opinions about this Senate’s idea - I'm in the middle between two opposing forces.

The Senate version of the bill is identical to mine – it is the amendments that they have placed on these bills that make them different. If you look at one of the bills, you will see that they are very simple – they remove the entity from one section of the code and place it another. That is all.

I’m not right or wrong – my article is simply explaining the issue. I see both sides.

The question is; what is the best thing to do?

After eight years of service on this committee, I know that political appointments are a major problem in state government. There can be an entitlement mentality – such are very often offended if they are not reappointed at the end of their term of service, so terms run on and on and turn-over is rare. Plus, their attendance is often poor which is simply not fair to the general public.

The issue of political appointments was why we fought so hard against the process of the Governor appointing judges last year – the people should elect them - in that case it is Constitutional.

I completely agree that one shouldn’t have to belong to a trade association to get an appointment – and the fact is you don’t. They can and do nominate outside of their membership.

I'd like your help, if you can think of a better way to make sure that well qualified, knowledgeable people who are committed to attend every meeting are appointed to serve by all means let me know right away.

I’ve tried to look at this dilemma logically considering motivation.
The boards’ carryout the law that polices their industry – they don’t make law – it was made for them by the General Assembly.

So what do we do?

If we consider motivation, all elected officials have a motivation towards political patronage – especially if one is in a position of power that they want to keep - I apologize if that may sound cynical. And as I said in my article, to the Governor's, Lt. Gov's and Speaker's credit they are not pushing to have this power soley in their hands.

The regulated people also have a motivation that the best people from their industry serve – they don’t want someone unintelligent or incompetent serving their industry..

The trade organization has a motivation toward making sure the best person from the industry serves – they also don’t want someone unintelligent or incompetent serving their industry.

Political patronage is something to avoid.

We should also want to make sure we avoid a creepy, freaky, Barack Obama type of board made up of only the “leader’s” elite picks – we can do this by making sure that citizens have the right to nominate people to serve.

So how do we do that?

We could put each regulated person’s name in a hat and pick one – however, that would not ensure knowledge or commitment.

We could hold an election where regulated people nominate themselves and then all of them vote – that may be expensive and time consuming but it would probably be a pretty good way to ensure that commitment is high, however, knowledge is not guaranteed.

Unfortunately, this dilemma is why the current system is in place.

It is not a perfect system. It is not a system I created. I’d like a better idea too.

I hate to say it but I guess I don't have as much faith in elected people, nor do I trust politicians with power as much as you do -