Bureaucracy: Administrator, Rule Maker, and Judge

Bureaucracy as Administrator

Bureaucratic agencies have constitutionally or statutorily delegated authority to carry out laws that have been made elsewhere in government.  Each bureaucratic agency is charged with implementing specific program(s) and/or enforcing specific law(s).

Bureaucracy as Rule Maker

The Texas legislature does not spell out all the details when writing a law or creating a new program; instead, the legislature delegates some lawmaking authority to the bureaucracy, allowing agencies to determine whether and, if so, what specific rules should be adopted to “fill in the blanks.”

Traditionally, once an agency drafts a proposed rule, it is published in the Texas Register so the public may review it and provide comments that raise important points the agency failed to consider and/or provide recommendations for revision.  After the time for public comments ends, the agency will review those comments, make revisions to the draft rule based on the public comments (if necessary), and adopt the final rule, at which point it is again published in the Texas Register.  Once adopted, a rule or regulation carries the full weight of the law, just like a law that was passed by the Texas legislature and signed by the governor.

Gov. Abbott asserted the governor’s office into the rule-making process by issuing a letter directing state agencies to “provide certain information to the governor – including the draft rule, as well as its expected impact on local employment and the economy – before posting the proposed rule in the Texas Register”  (Platoff, 2018).  This arrangement, which more closely resembles what we find with the president and federal bureaucracy, allows the governor more control over the bureaucracy by allowing the governor “to coordinate policy among agencies, eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies, and provide a dispassionate ‘second opinion’ on the costs and benefits of proposed agency actions” (Platoff, 2018).  While Texas Administrative Code doesn’t require state bureaucratic agencies to consult the governor during rule-making, it doesn’t explicitly prohibit it, either.

Bureaucracy as Judge

Bureaucratic agencies that are charged with ensuring compliance with rules and regulations operate in a quasi-judicial capacity in the sense that they can determine whether an individual or entity has violated a rule or regulation and, if so, they have the authority to enact punishment (within the framework proscribed by applicable laws, rules, and regulations).  These punishments can take the form of:

  • fines (for example, for exceeding the speed limit, or for fishing without the appropriate license)
  • revoking or suspending a license (for example, if the TABC discovers a server in a restaurant who has a TABC certification to sell alcoholic beverages is selling alcohol to persons under 21 years of age, the server’s Texas driver’s license will be suspended for 180 days upon conviction in addition to potential fines and/or imprisonment)
  • arrest and imprisonment (for example, if an officer has probable cause to suspect a person committed a felony offense)