Minnesota Farmer


Regulation versus Legislation

Well, it seems our President has stepped into a real storm after he O.K.ed a Department of Health and Human Services regulation requiring all employers to cover contraceptives, including those that act as abortifacients and surgical sterilization.  To say the least the Catholic Church, and its hospitals, schools and charities, is not happy, and they are not the only ones.  We are now faced with another example of a regulatory agency in the Executive branch going much further than the actual law passed by the Legislative branch.

So here’s a little Civics lesson to help you understand what is happening here.  When laws need to be changed the Legislative branch, the House and Senate, write a law and pass it.  The Executive branch of our government, the President and his cabinet, plus all of the regulatory agencies they control, is charged with enforcing these laws.  A law means nothing if it is not enforced by the Executive branch of government.  It is the job of the courts, the Judicial branch of our government, to decide if the law or regulation is really legal.  The Judicial branch of our government can overturn any law or regulation, but they cannot make or enforce a law.  The Judicial branch has final say on fines and imprisonment of any person or group for breaking the law, but they can do nothing if the Executive branch, or the people of our country, does not bring the case before them.

In many cases the Executive branch of our government can make regulations that “interpret” the law in a different way than the Legislature ever intended.  It is then the job of our Judicial system to bring the Executive branch back in line.  In this case, the Judicial branch will spank the fingers of the Executive branch for pushing too far.  The same is true when the Legislative branch passes a law that is not in line with the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Currently, we in Agriculture are also fighting rule making that just does not make sense.  Last year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sought to bring forth a regulation that would control dust.  Thus all levels of government would have to either pave over all gravel or dirt roads, or enforce 10 mph speed limits to keep down dust.  Ranchers whose cattle raise too much dust in dry months would be subject to fines, and farmers would be forced to eliminate the dust created when they planted or harvested their fields.  This regulation would have cost governments and rural residents billions, but the EPA cannot consider the cost of its regulations when it makes a rule.

Currently there is a battle between food producers and the EPA that would require all businesses in the Chesapeake Bay area to a pile of paperwork concerning discharge of pollutants into the bay, even if the EPA had already previously declared that they were not discharging anything.

The Government is currently considering passing regulations that would regulate all water, from the smallest puddle in your driveway, to the water you use to water your house plants and pets.  Do they really need to micromanage that far?

A recent regulation has drawn the ire of farm country when the ruling would have prevented children from any kind of work for parents or any other family member.  One of the primary ways that families have to pass on their work ethic was in danger.

The cost of democracy is constant vigilance.  We need to be watching our government agencies to make sure that they do only the things we want them to.  Groups such as the Farm Bureau, the Better Business Bureau and the AARP are helping us keep watch on our government.  When they need our help, be sure you answer the call.

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