Opinion: Senate Seeks to Shift Oversight Responsibility to new Peoples’ Assembly






Opinion: Senate Seeks to Shift Oversight Responsibility to new Peoples’ Assembly

Written by Deepest House


(Europiea - December 1, 2022) In October, Senator Izzy, following a discussion in the Grand Hall, proposed to create a new lower legislative chamber in Europeia, similar in style and substance to the previous Citizens' Assembly, which operated in Europeia until it went defunct and was officially closed. The signature feature of the newly proposed Peoples’ Assembly is for the Senate give it oversight responsibility over the executive branch. Once again, the Senate appears to be obsessed with contemplating executive oversight instead of actually performing it.

First, let’s be clear: there is no need for any additional executive oversight mechanism in Euroepia. Period. There is no legitimate argument that the tools the Senate currently possesses are insufficient to complete its oversight duty. Indeed, the Senate already has all the mechanisms it requires to conduct executive oversight, and over the past several years added (unnecessarily) to its oversight tool belt. The Senate can already compel testimony from ministers, not just the president, at its pleasure. The Senate can already remove a minister from office for insufficient performance. The Senate should busy itself legislating issues of need, not occupying itself with legislative redundancy.

Why would the Senate seek to shift oversight responsibility to the new Peoples’ Assembly when it already has all the tools it needs? Given the track record of the Senate actually implementing its oversight responsibilities and duties, a reasonable conclusion is that perhaps the region’s sole legislative chamber has no interest in actually doing it, and sees the new Peoples’ Assembly as an opportunity to outsource this mundane duty to another body. Outsourcing this responsibility would require the Senate to act and perform its oversight duty only in the most egregious of cases, where the problem is so large that it filters first through the Peoples’ Assembly. We have seen time and time again how the Senate invents new oversight mechanisms rather than actually performing meaningful oversight. Here we are once more. At some point, it is reasonable to conclude that the chamber simply does not have much interest in that part of its duty. That they’ve now proposed outsourcing this responsibility to a junior legislative chamber may be indicative of the importance the Senate places on oversight: not much.

There will be those that say something along the lines of 'the Senate will of course still conduct oversight.' But why would it? Why would it create a new legislative chamber to filter oversight issues and elevate only the most egregious and then undercut the specific and signature 'feature' of the currently proposed legislation by doing what it created the Peoples' Assembly to do? That's not logical. The most logical outcome is that the Senate simply does nothing, and waits for the Peoples' Assembly to elevate something. After all, why create something if you don't intend to use it?

While I was clear on the fact that the Senate needs no additional oversight tools, let’s be clear on another fact: nobody in the populace believes we have a rogue executive that requires additional oversight. There is no demand from the population to create a legislative body that will increase oversight of the executive branch. The Senate, and the region, would be better served if the chamber focused on priority issues rather than creating a redundant system of oversight that will only create additional busy work.

If the Senate is actually serious about executive oversight, it should just do its job and perform that oversight. The Senate should not outsource that responsibility to another legislative body in a move that will create absolutely zero additional value for anyone in the region. If a citizen wants to raise an issue of executive branch performance, there are avenues in place that exist to support that. Namely, a Senate which possesses oversight authority! If a citizen approaches the Senate and the legislative chamber remains unresponsive to the outreach, a citizen may also begin a debate in the Grand Hall. Heck, a concerned citizen can even run for Senate themselves. Bottom line: there are plenty of oversight mechanisms already in place, both for the Senate and the general populace that render this part of the proposed legislation unnecessary.

If the Senate decides to push ahead and pass this legislation, the president of Euroepia should quickly veto the bill without hesitation. The executive branch cannot allow the Senate to continue to degrade its ability to perform meaningful work on behalf of the Europeian population by creating more oversight games which will do nothing but create busy work for the president, vice president, and ministers. The additional oversight conducted by the Peoples’ Assembly will add zero value to the overall oversight function or balance of power in the region.

It feels like the Senate has finally given up on its oversight duty and is seeking a way out. That’s the only logical explanation I can come up with for why a lower legislative chamber would require oversight responsibility. The Senate should immediately drop this provision from the proposed legislation. If the Senate is truly done with conducting executive oversight and wants to create a meaningful role for the proposed Peoples' Assembly, then it should just go whole hog: pass ministerial confirmations and authority for removal to the lower legislative chamber as well. Otherwise, we're just playing games.
 
Last edited:

WS (Bruised Orange)

heart's in the icehouse, come hill or come valley
Citizen
I have a few thoughts about "oversight" that I would like to hear both from sitting Senators and the author about.

First, and very basically - just what exactly is "oversight?" What would the new People's Assembly be empowered to oversee? How would it affect the existing system of checks and balances?

I ask this question because I have the nagging feeling that this article (and even the necessity of its writing) is indicative of a larger problem within government as a whole. I've witnessed this elsewhere as well. "Oversight" is often thrown around as a nebulous term with no distinct meaning in order to make it seem like the legislative is doing something when, in fact, it is just spinning its wheels and now wishes to pawn off its responsibility on another body it seems to have created for the sole purpose of doing just that. I say this as a supporter of a People's Assembly; I just think the Senate needs to think harder about how it implements such a body, as I detailed in a couple different places in the Grand Hall.

The article, for its part, does give quite a few examples of the actual oversight powers that would be shifted to the PA. However, I fear it glosses over the core problem. The issue, as I see it, is that the Senate is simultaneously increasing the amount of bureaucratic overhead required to enact legislation while not actually creating any meaningful benefit to the citizens of the region. An increase in bureaucratic overhead, should it be necessary, should come with tangible benefits that exceed the opportunity cost of that overhead. I still think a People's Assembly could do this, but simply using it as an excuse to shift responsibilities the Senate is not interested in performing is not going to do that. Though I am relatively new to Europeia, I already get the feeling that there is a significant problem with excessive bureaucratic overhead as it is, and if we're going to create more of it we need to make sure we're accomplishing something meaningful with it that isn't going to be repealed in a few months due to inactivity or something else.

Likewise, I am worried that creating too many redundant tools within the legislative to "oversee" the executive begins to weight the checks and balances too heavily in favor of the legislative and hampers the ability of the Government to, well, actually govern. That may be a small aside, but it is worth considering when we as a citizenry weigh our options as to whether we want our elected representatives to be able to essentially pawn off their responsibilities onto us rather than doing their jobs, and make it harder for the Government to do its job as a result.

I like the idea of a People's Assembly, but I really think this "oversight" conversation is just an excuse for elected officials to make it seem like they are doing something to create meaningful change when there seems to be a pattern of shuffling pieces around with nothing actually changing for the better. And that, as a new citizen, is concerning.
 

GraVandius

Part Time Troll
Senate Speaker
Senator
Citizen
Quite frankly the Senate should have just pushed the default version of the CA through like a month and a half ago. Certainly a new deliberative body would have generated more interesting discussion than the pointless grasping around for responsibilities to heap on this new forum that has transpired.
 

Olde Delaware

Honos Habet Onus
Cabinet
Citizen
We still don't have the activity needed for two legislative bodies. I can't believe were still debating over the role a PA should have when we don't have the numbers to sustain it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Vor

WS (Bruised Orange)

heart's in the icehouse, come hill or come valley
Citizen
That is why I think the PA should not be a full legislative body with equal or similar powers to the Senate. However "not having the activity" isn't a reason it shouldn't be done, it's a reason to do it and actually create some marketing around it. This is a political simulator; actually marketing it as a benefit of citizenship would probably do a non-negligible amount to give people reason to apply for citizenship

There NEEDS to be a mechanism for new citizens to get involved in legislative activity. I'm not convinced it should be a full lower house because of activity and such, but I actually think that's a reason to have SOMETHING to get people interested in government. That is my starting point for this rather than "oversight" as a nebulous and frankly vacuous term.
 

Olde Delaware

Honos Habet Onus
Cabinet
Citizen
There NEEDS to be a mechanism for new citizens to get involved in legislative activity. I'm not convinced it should be a full lower house because of activity and such, but I actually think that's a reason to have SOMETHING to get people interested in government. That is my starting point for this rather than "oversight" as a nebulous and frankly vacuous term.

There are several, first there is the Senate Aide program which allows new citizens to work with Senators, learn how the Senate operates and how to craft legislation. There is the Law Clerk/LEO Program run by the Attorney General's Office which teaches the laws and introduces citizens to the Judiciary. There are programs in place already that are vastly underutilized, once the region starts to see each Senator with an Aide and full LEO/Law Clerk staff then I would say absolutely lets add a PA to it.

But...here we are.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Vor

Kuramia

Trust me.
Forum Administrator
Vice President
Honoured Citizen
Citizen
Great write-up, DH! Missed your takes.

My worry is that this actually won't give the PA anything to do. The Senate doesn't often have to really worry about oversight or conducting it. In fact, when it's been forced - well, you can tell it's being forced. The questions are rudimentary and easily answered or breezed past even when it's proven a minister is having struggles. When it's needed, the Senate doesn't require much push. A couple discord posts and a GH thread and any active, engaged Senate is going to do oversight and do it correctly.

So why does the PA even need to do this? It feels more busywork you'd give to someone who has nothing else to do. It feels contrived and kind of insulting actually. Can we give the PA something to do that isn't already aptly covered - and rarely needed anyways?
 

WS (Bruised Orange)

heart's in the icehouse, come hill or come valley
Citizen
Or... we could take all of those
There NEEDS to be a mechanism for new citizens to get involved in legislative activity. I'm not convinced it should be a full lower house because of activity and such, but I actually think that's a reason to have SOMETHING to get people interested in government. That is my starting point for this rather than "oversight" as a nebulous and frankly vacuous term.

There are several, first there is the Senate Aide program which allows new citizens to work with Senators, learn how the Senate operates and how to craft legislation. There is the Law Clerk/LEO Program run by the Attorney General's Office which teaches the laws and introduces citizens to the Judiciary. There are programs in place already that are vastly underutilized, once the region starts to see each Senator with an Aide and full LEO/Law Clerk staff then I would say absolutely lets add a PA to it.

But...here we are.
Or... we could take those largely "opt-in" things and meld them into something that is "opt-out" which I find to be largely superior. I think the point has already been raised somewhere that telling new citizens "here's something you can join if you're interested" is a little different than telling people "here's something you are automatically signed up for by virtue of being a citizen."

This is just from my years of experience in a citizen legislature. Making it opt-out instead of opt-in makes a world of difference.
 

Kuramia

Trust me.
Forum Administrator
Vice President
Honoured Citizen
Citizen
Or... we could take all of those
There NEEDS to be a mechanism for new citizens to get involved in legislative activity. I'm not convinced it should be a full lower house because of activity and such, but I actually think that's a reason to have SOMETHING to get people interested in government. That is my starting point for this rather than "oversight" as a nebulous and frankly vacuous term.

There are several, first there is the Senate Aide program which allows new citizens to work with Senators, learn how the Senate operates and how to craft legislation. There is the Law Clerk/LEO Program run by the Attorney General's Office which teaches the laws and introduces citizens to the Judiciary. There are programs in place already that are vastly underutilized, once the region starts to see each Senator with an Aide and full LEO/Law Clerk staff then I would say absolutely lets add a PA to it.

But...here we are.
Or... we could take those largely "opt-in" things and meld them into something that is "opt-out" which I find to be largely superior. I think the point has already been raised somewhere that telling new citizens "here's something you can join if you're interested" is a little different than telling people "here's something you are automatically signed up for by virtue of being a citizen."

This is just from my years of experience in a citizen legislature. Making it opt-out instead of opt-in makes a world of difference.
*coughs* ERN Militia.
 

Izzy

Pokémon Euro Creator
Deputy Minister
Citizen
I'm proud that I could elicit an opinion piece from Deepest House that labels my work as audacious. That said, this is far beyond the kind of response that I expected to receive. Given these strong feelings from the public and the statements of my colleagues, I'm obviously going to have to make some changes to my draft. Basically what I'm saying is I hear you all and I'm listening.
 

Darcness

Robot Overlord
Forum Administrator
Honoured Citizen
Citizen
Best Tech Admin
When something is everyone's job, it becomes nobody's job.
 

Lethen

Nissan: electric cars for electric drivers
Forum Administrator
Supreme Chancellor
Honoured Citizen
Citizen
I don't even understand why we talk about oversight so much when it's either used in the most egregious of cases or when a sitting Senator has a bone to pick with the Executive. As to the larger point of this op-ed, I somewhat agree. However, just because the Senate has the ability to do something doesn't mean it's used consistently or effectively in practice. Same can be said for the Senate Aide program - it's there, but clearly the citizenry and the average Senator don't bother employing it as a tool.
 
Top