Richard V. Reeves at the Brookings Institution argues for more consideration of “policy commitment devices.” This kind of governmental structure can “commit policymakers to a longer-term perspective.” They work because breaching the commitment is difficult. Historically, Florida’s five water management districts fit within his list of key “policy commitment” characteristics:
The kind [of issue] justifying the use of a commitment device will have some or all of the following features: a long-range planning horizon (e.g., pensions); a requirement for a high degree of stability or consistency (e.g., environmental regulation); or at significant risk of being damaged by short-term political pressures (e.g., monetary policy).
Yes, that is water management districts exactly. They are intended to undertake long-range projects, they benefit from long-range stability, and they must not be dominated by regular short-term political pressures. Unfortunately, that water policy “commitment device” has been weakened. Upon entering office, Rick Scott devastated WMD budgets, staffing, and independent approaches. The WMDs are now tightly supervised by Tallahassee and have ceased standing up for their own priorities. The Legislature spends time each year talking about how to dole out grants for water projects-not how to strengthen regional water institutions. In effect, there is less institutional “commitment” to allowing effective water management.