In a swift two-week turnaround, the California State Legislature introduced and passed Governor Gavin Newsom’s “oil penalty” legislation for alleged “price gouging.” 

In a 52-19 vote, the state Assembly approved legislation to create a “watchdog agency” at the California Energy Commission that could compel oil companies to provide information about their oil operations and set a profit cap that includes a penalty for those who exceed the cap. 

In order words, the politicians just “passed the buck.”

Politicians are elected to office and answer to the people of California. They are elected to set priorities, make things happen, fix problems, improve people’s lives, and do it through responsible and transparent governance. They are to be held accountable for their successes, failures, and actions. But that accountability is now pushed to the wayside because here in California, there is a new form of governing, and it’s called “Passing the Buck.” 

“Passing the Buck” is when elected officials decide they don’t want to deal with an issue and turn over the decision-making, policy development, and implementation to non-elected bureaucrats. In the instance of the “oil penalty,” this decision-making was passed to the CA Energy Commission- someone who doesn’t answer to the people, has no accountability and provides political cover for the elected officials.

The people do not elect bureaucrats. At best, state bureaucrats operate as long-time status quo employees who don’t directly answer to the people of this state through the election process.

Since the bureaucrats don’t answer to the people, they have free reign to impose penalties and fees on our energy companies, which means those costs get passed to us. Free from direct affiliation with those hot-take issues, politicians can claim outrage, ignorance, or whatever emotion is required for that day’s complaint from California voters. 

Ultimately, we pay more at the pump, and the politicians escape the blame.