Gov. Jerry Brown’s reorganization plan to reduce the number of state agencies from 12 to 10, took effect July 2 after lawmakers failed to reject it.
The announcement by the Democratic governor came an hour before Senate President Pro tempore Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, told reporters he and other legislators planned to make some changes in the proposal which Brown says streamlines the delivery of services and saves taxpayers money.
““This far-reaching plan will make government more effective and will reduce wasteful spending,” said Brown in a statement.
The state’s Little Hoover Commission, which by law must examine such administrative restructuring proposals, unanimously approved Brown’s proposal on May 22 declaring it the “most ambitious” of the 36 reorganizations the commission has reviewed since 1968.
Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor offered a somewhat less expansive appraisal of the proposal when it came before lawmakers in late May.
“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,” Taylor told a special committee convened to examine Brown’s proposal.
The plan, which goes into effect July 1, 2012, will replace five existing state agencies with three:
- The Government Operations Agency will administer state operations, such as procurement, information technology and human resources.
- The Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency will be responsible for licensing and oversight of industries, businesses and other professionals. And,
- The Transportation Agency will coordinate the state’s transportation efforts from Caltrans to high-speed rail.
Steinberg said the Legislature intended to maintain the state Transportation Commission, which reviews and approves state highway and transit spending, as a separate entity outside Brown’s new Transportation agency.
Similarly, Steinberg said lawmakers would also keep the Delta Stewardship Council, whose aim is to improve water supply reliability and habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta an independent body rather than placing it under the umbrella of the natural Resources Agency as Brown initially wanted.
“When we implement the plan next year, it will include the changes in the package of bills the Legislature sends us,” said Gareth Lacy, a spokesman for the Democratic governor.
Brown lays out what he wants to do on pages 23 through 32 in his January budget proposal.
Brown makes the case for his proposal in the document he sent to the Little Hoover Commission in March:
“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. This haphazard structure inhibits coordination and efficiency and makes it difficult to identify programs with duplicative functions,” Brown writes.
“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, originally, 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.
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 various independently run agencies.
The whipping boy in Budd’s stump speeches was the state’s insane asylums, which were governed by individual boards whose membership was more politically connected than psychiatrically and fiscally committed.