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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Ind. Gov't. - Still more on Gov. Daniels' plan to "prune" boards

Updating our most recent entry on this topic (1/22/05) are these "pro" and "con" items.

"Pro" is this editorial today from the Munster (NW Indiana) Times, headlined "All those state agencies, boards and commissions need to justify their existence:"

Our opinion: Agencies, boards and commissions should be proactive and detail their contributions. If they can show how they benefit Northwest Indiana and detail their accomplishments on behalf of the region, they should have nothing to worry about.

The order by Gov. Mitch Daniels to clean house in state government has the agencies, boards and commissions he has targeted scrambling to justify their existence. There are about 300 such boards, agencies and commissions that Daniels believes should be trimmed to fewer than 100, as part of the belt-tightening the state must do.

He is right about that. Saving money and being more efficient are the cornerstones of the new governor's agenda. Some of these are advisory committees or boards, with members likely appointed as much as a political thank you. Some have not met for years. Does anyone even attend meetings of the Egg Board, for example, or the Civil War Flags Commission? Do they even meet? If they do, why?

What do some of these agencies do? And how much taxpayer money goes toward keeping them going? Those are questions that need to be answered as the housecleaning of useless agencies, boards and commissions continues.

As a result of Daniels' call, two bills have been introduced at the Statehouse. A Senate bill would shut down most government boards and commissions on July 1, 2006, and only those recommended by the state government efficiency commission and approved by the governor would continue to exist. A House bill would impose a one-year moratorium on all boards and commissions this July 1.

Of the two, the Senate bill makes more sense because the entities would have to justify their existence, even those that clearly serve a useful purpose, whether the state Ethics Commission or the Board of Dentistry.

Closer to home, targets include the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, the Regional Transportation Authority and the Kankakee and Little Calumet River basin commissions. NIRPC, however, is a federally funded and mandated agency, so it might be spared.

Cynical civic watchdogs and taxpayers have been known to wonder exactly what these agencies do. They should be proactive and outline their contributions. If they can show how they benefit Northwest Indiana and detail their accomplishments on behalf of the region, they should have nothing to worry about.

The two bills are SB 625 (Sen. Clark) and HB 1188 (Rep. MCCain). Here are their digests (as introduced):
SB 625. Sunset of boards and commissions. Terminates most statutory boards and commissions, and numerous other governmental entities on July 1, 2006. Reestablishes the government efficiency study commission (which expired January 1, 2005) until December 31, 2006, and directs the commission to make recommendations to the governor and the general assembly concerning the advisability of continuing or modifying a board or commission that would otherwise expire. Permits the governor, by executive order, to extend the life of a board, commission, or other entity based on the recommendation of the government efficiency commission. Directs the legislative services agency, under the direction of the legislative council, to prepare legislation to bring affected statutes into compliance with this act.

HB 1188. Moratorium for boards and commissions. Establishes a one year moratorium on the operation of all statutorily created boards, commissions, committees, and other similar entities. Permits the governor, or the chairman and vice chairman of the legislative council, to authorize exceptions to the moratorium on a case by case basis. Directs the governor, at the conclusion of the moratorium, to make recommendations to the legislative council concerning continuation, combination, restructuring, or repeal of each of the boards and commissions.

"Con" is this story by Paulene Poparad published last Friday in the Chesterton Tribune, headlined "Proposed bill would shut down much of local government." It begins:
Most thought it was a bad joke, but it wasn’t. Members of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission reacted swiftly Thursday by unanimously voting to oppose efforts to shut it down effective July 1 under Indiana House Bill 1188 that appears to threaten operation of most town government boards and commissions as well.

Said NIRPC member State Rep. Chet Dobis, D-Merrillville, “This is the governor’s bill. I tell you it will pass but probably not in this form.”

In new Gov. Mitch Daniels’ attempt to erase a projected state budget deficit that tops $600 million, H.B. 1188 would establish a one-year moratorium on the operation of all statutorily created boards, commissions, committees and other similar entities. At the conclusion, the governor would make recommendations concerning continuation, combination, restructuring or repeal of each board and commission.

NIRPC asked to be authorized an exception under the bill’s provisions to allow it to continue to operate during the study period. The governor may by executive order grant full or partial exemptions under four criteria including if the health or safety of the public could be jeopardized, or the operation of the board or commission is critical for the efficient and orderly conduct of state or local government.

The Recycling and Waste Reduction District of Porter County, formerly the county’s Solid Waste District, on Tuesday took a similar stand against separate legislation that could dismantle such districts throughout the state. H.B. 1188 also identifies solid waste management boards as among those subject to the moratorium.

NIRPC attorney David Hollenbeck said even the Porter County Health Department is included under the legislation, which lists eight pages of boards and commissions to be evaluated including airport authority, commuter transportation district, State Board of Education, Indiana Gaming Commission, county hospital governing boards, the Indiana Lottery Commission, the Indiana Port Commission, the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Workers’ Compensation Board of Indiana.

Problematic locally is the inclusion of the economic development commission, town board of metropolitan police commissioners, redevelopment commission and board of zoning appeals listed in the legislation.

“There’s something missing here,” said NIRPC member Lake County Surveyor George Van Til. “The Legislature.” In his fervor to eliminate government waste, some believe Daniels is inviting chaos.

[Thanks to Marty Lucas of bigeastern.com for the link to the Tribune story.]

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 25, 2005 07:44 AM
Posted to Indiana Government