Every issue of Gem State Patriot News includes the phrase “Knowledge is Power as Silence is Consent”. When I read that phrase, I find myself nodding in agreement and at the same time feel my blood pressure rising. Why? It’s because finding information in order to be that knowledgeable and vocal citizen is extremely difficult.
On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law “Every Child Succeeds Act” or ESSA as it is commonly called. That was only the beginning as every law that is signed sets off a series of events. One is the rule-making process. Rule-making creates more detailed regulations based on the law that was passed. These rules which are written by agencies have the force of law. The rule-making process for ESSA was recently completed. As part of that process, citizens were invited to submit comments.
Let me ask, those who are reading, “Do you recall that invitation?” Neither do I! In fact, I had no knowledge of the contents of the ESSA law or of the rule-making timeline until a fellow education activist brought this to my attention.
Today the rule-making process has led to some of the most far-reaching regulations of the 21st Century. Criticism of the rule-making process is increasing because this process reduces the transparency and accountability of our representative form of government. In the case of rule-making, silence does not mean consent. Silence means we the people have been deprived of knowledge.
The process in Idaho is no different than what occurs at the federal level. Our elected senators and representatives pass bills. Education bills go to the State Board of Education which is the rule-making agency. SBOE invites public comment on proposed rules. Let me repeat, “SBOE invites public comment on proposed rules.”
Criticism of the rule-making process is increasing in Idaho. Citizens have complained they are left out and often do not know that rules have been enacted until they are face to face with another unwelcome regulation.
In response, groups like Idahoans for Local Education are making every effort to keep abreast of agency meetings that may impact education in Idaho. Representative Heather Scott has made it a point to inform those who sign up for her legislative updates of any proposed rule-making. This link explains how to sign up for legislative updates. The rest of the page has much information on legislation and something few citizens know about – Idaho Administrative Rules. Remember that passing a bill is just the beginning.
As Representative Scott states on her page, “Just because Session is over doesn’t mean the job of the legislator or the citizen is over! Now is the most important time to pay attention to what government is doing while many are not watching because now is when bureaucrats and lobbyists are drafting “negotiated” rules, regulations, and fees. This process allows for citizens input, although most citizens are unaware of their power or the process. Now is the time to share your concerns about how you are being governed. If you have no idea what I am talking about, please go here to read my newsletter. It will explain everything.”
It was one year ago that I signed up for Representative Scott’s update and I have not been disappointed. She does an excellent job of breaking down the contents of the Idaho Administrative Bulletins as a first look at this monument to bureaucracy was enough to set my hair on fire. For the curious, here’s the link.
We can repeat the phrase, “Knowledge is Power as Silence is Consent.” All we want but nothing will change unless we engage in the process of government. Much of our attention is directed to bills and many citizens think once a bill is passed or defeated, the process is finished. In fact the process is only beginning. As the old adage goes, “The devil is in the details.” In this case the devil is in the administrative rules. We the people have two options where administrative rules are concerned. One is to do nothing. The other is to participate!