UPDATED: A Multipurpose Attorney General
I must need a civics refresher, because I’ve always thought that the attorney general was the top law-enforcement officer in the state — a job which sounds like it ought to keep a fella (or gal) plenty busy. But according to the Moderate Party candidate for the office, Christopher Little, the AG is another executive-branch officer tasked with solving all of Rhode Island’s problems:
Take health insurance, for example. Its cost is out of reach already for many of our citizens and businesses, and increases continue unchecked. Yet our physicians and community health-care systems are under siege because of lack of money.
The attorney general should be the advocate for cutting costs in the system, which, in the short term are obvious — e.g., excess administrative costs — but the long-term cost control requires that we have talented physicians and healthy hospitals.
As for public utilities, why can’t we strengthen our advocacy, as Massachusetts has, and insist that utilities be as frugal with their costs as Rhode Islanders must be in their homes and businesses? And, with respect to renewable energy, the attorney general should be at the forefront of assessing appropriate cost structures, so that we do not have a repeat of the Deepwater Wind process.
So we’ve got Democrat Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts blowing wads of cash on advertising to express incredulity that Cool Moose candidate for her office Robert Healey has no jobs program — even though the LG has no power to change anything, and we’ve got an AG candidate promising to help restructure the healthcare industry. I guess once a society crosses the line to accepting government’s role in every aspect of life, the struggle moves within government, to various office holders all vying for more authority.
And then, of course, they’ll all claim credit for any positive results, and voters will never have a clear picture of whom to hold accountable when “solutions” go bad.
In the comments, brassband notes the following:
Not to defend Little, but the AG has statutory duty to participate in PUC matters R.I. Gen. L. sec. 39-1-19, and is also required by law to house the office of Health Care Advocate.
Anyone running for that office needs to be prepared to handle a very broad range of matters, well beyond criminal prosecutions.
Let me acknowledge, first of all, that I apparently did need a minor civics refresher, although I’m not sure whether the General Assembly is or I am the one straying from political first principles, given this astonishingly broad mandate for the AG’s health care advocate:
To take all necessary and appropriate action, including but not limited to public education, legislative advocacy, and where authorized by law to institute formal legal action, to secure and insure compliance with the provisions of titles 23 and 27 and to advocate for any changes necessary to support the goal of quality and affordable health care for all citizens of Rhode Island.
Little wonder Rhode Island has such a limited number of healthcare providers, with legislators fond of requiring things to be funded and executive officers explicitly tasked with beating down costs.
But returning to my specific targeting of candidate Little, I’d note my emphasis, in this post, on systemic political structure. I’d also point to brassband’s careful phrasing that the AG is “required by law to house the office” described by the statute. He is not required to make micromanagement of finances his focus.