Mississippi News

Watson: What is the role of government?

The following is an op-ed item provided by Michael Watson in his role as Mississippi Secretary of State

By Michael Watson

Recently, there has been plenty of discussion regarding the role of state government in higher education. While this lengthy debate has caused quite an uproar, the fundamental question remains: “What is the proper role of government?”

As a limited government conservative, it is my belief this basic question should be applied in all policy discussions. While this conservative viewpoint may not be politically expedient, it remains the premise for my decision-making and the foundation for my team’s work, including the creation of initiatives like Tackle the Tape.

Created in 2020, Tackle the Tape seeks to cut anti-competitive regulations that do not substantially further the safety and well-being of our citizens, and to help Mississippians navigate the regulatory burden. Our mission has been to get government out of the way and increase economic opportunities for all.

Through our work with the Occupational Licensing Review Commission (OLRC), the state legislature, our 29 by 29 strategic review plan, and community assistance, we have seen great success advocating for Mississippians across the state.

Most recently, my team and I were made aware of numerous Mississippians who completed graduate school for speech pathology in another state. Attempting to return home after graduation to work, many were denied licensure in Mississippi due to a recently adopted discretionary policy. Educated Mississippians were told they must either return to the state in which they studied until they were awarded full licensure, or find a job in Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, or elsewhere to get a provisional license and work in said states until earning a full license. All because they were educated outside state boundaries.

Again, what is the role of government?

After expressing our concern to the Mississippi Department of Education, we were made aware of an effort to remove the restriction and alleviate this undue burden. Through a specially called meeting, approval was granted to amend licensure-track requirements for those who have completed out-of-state programs.

While this issue still must go before the State Board, it may very well be on the way to resolution. Unfortunately, many Mississippians have not only agonized over this painstaking process but have also lost wages due to having to work on sub or contract pay, not full-time income.

This is one example of many where far too often, we can’t seem to get out of our own way. Why? Because the role of government has, whether intentional or not, increased in size and scope to the point where those in charge often forget for whom they work and why they are here. We should always be focused on the potentially negative impact any new law or regulation could have on everyday Mississippians and businesses across our state. In those cases necessitating state action, we should always use the least restrictive means possible. 

For Mississippi to truly prosper, shrinking the size and reach of government in our day-to-day lives is a must. Additionally, we should focus on strengthening our economy by promoting and encouraging innovation, competition, and, more importantly, by getting government out of the way and allowing individual Mississippians more opportunities to succeed.

Michael Watson is Mississippi Secretary of State.

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