On May 24, the Assembly began evaluating a plan by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce the number of state agencies from 12 to 10, a reorganization move that Brown says streamlines the delivery of services and saves taxpayers money.
Modifying the structure of state government has been championed by a number of previous governors.
Republican C. C. Young, governor from 1927 to 1931, counted his reorganization efforts, which added seven new departments to the state’s existing five, as his greatest achievement.
Three decades earlier, Democrat Jim Budd ran on a platform of reducing government spending, in part by consolidating management of in individual agencies. His stump speech whipping boy was the state’s insane asylums, which were governed by individual boards whose membership was more politically connected than psychiatrically and fiscally committed.
If the initial May 24 Assembly hearing is any indicator, Brown is likely to succeed in his reorganization efforts just as his predecessors did to a large extent.
The Legislature has until June 22 to act. If either the Senate or the Assembly votes the plan down it fails. If neither house takes any action, it is deemed approved.
In the initial testimony on Brown’s plan before the special committee created to consider it, the proposal was described by Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor as not a “major undertaking.”
“You’re not eliminating functions here. You’re not drastically changing the functions either. You’re bringing agencies outside the agency structure and putting them under the agency structure or moving them to other agencies. The stakes are not dramatically high.”
Actions that potentially appear positive and pose little political risk tend to be embraced readily by lawmakers.
Brown lays out what he wants to do on pages 23 through 32 in his January budget proposal.
“The state’s current organizational structure lacks cohesion and logical organization.
“Some agencies contain departments with unrelated missions and some departments have programs that are similar to programs in other departments scattered throughout state government.
“Why, for example, should Caltrans, the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Financial Institutions be part of the same agency? “Confusing associations like these make little sense and both produce and obscure inefficiencies.”
The most noticeable part of Brown’s plan is creation of a Transportation Agency, instead of the current Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.
This new entity “will facilitate more effective coordination in addressing the critical transportation issues the stat will ace in coming years,” Brown says in his letter to the Little Hoover Commission.
The new agency would contain Caltrans, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the California Highway Patrol, the High-Speed Rail Authority and the Transportation Commission, which is currently an independent entity.
Those departments that regulate business within the current Business, Transportation and Housing Agency would be sent to a new Consumer Services Agency which, in turn, would be stripped of its current procurement, information technology and human resources responsibilities for other state agencies, largely handled by its Department of General Services.
That department and what’s currently the Technology Agency would become the core of a new “Government Operations” Agency.
Testifying before the Assembly committee, Stuart Drown, the Little Hoover Commission’s executive director, said that consolidating entities that provide services to other government agencies has “great potential.”
But he said that if lawmakers approve Brown’s plan – which cannot be amended – they should consider accompanying legislation creating a “ direct line reporting relationship with the governor” for the new technology department director.
Included in Brown’s proposal is elimination of the Boating and Waterways department, a move the department and those it regulates object to.
Both Drown and Taylor expressed concern over transferring the Delta Stewardship Council, a recently created independent entity, within the Natural Resources Agency.
Given the council’s appellate role in arbitrating disputes over the fractious policies related to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, lawmakers should consider keeping it outside of a state agency, Drown said..