There is an idea being discussed in Lansing that might actually make state government more accountable. The idea of allowing the governor to appoint 1 percent of the top administrators in state government was raised in the Reforms, Restructuring, and Reinvention Committee by Rep. Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc Township, according to the MIRS news service. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1961 limited the number of unclassified employees in each department.
I had firsthand experience with the practical limitations of only being allocated five unclassified positions while serving as director of the Department of Environmental Quality from 1995 to 2002. It was a huge challenge to change the direction of an entrenched bureaucracy of nearly 1,500 employees with only five gubernatorial appointees.
Most new governors attempt to steer the direction of state government by reorganizing state departments — a strategy that seldom works. Reorganization of state agencies generally results in the existing bureaucracy staying in place and being given a new name. It is commonly understood by many state employees, with civil service protection, that if they do not agree with the policies of a new administration they can just resist change and wait for the next election.
Michigan has an oppressive administrative state that is stifling job creation through excessive regulation. Regulation without representation occurs when state employees churn out thousands of pages of rules with very little oversight from elected officials.
Making the change that allows the governor to appoint 1 percent of state employees requires an amendment to the Michigan Constitution. Doing so should be taken seriously by voters and should be used only sparingly. Providing the governor with the authority to appoint 470 employees out of a state workforce of 47,000, however, seems like a modest but important step in restoring decision-making responsibility to officials who are accountable to those who must stand for election.