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Boards, commissions still to be streamlined

Phil Bryant

Phil Bryant

By BOBBY HARRISON / Daily Journal

JACKSON – Second-term Gov. Phil Bryant apparently is not giving up on a goal he made in his first inaugural address in January 2012 – to merge some of the state’s many boards and commissions.

The Republican governor revived his goal of merging some of the more than 200 state boards and commissions in the narrative for his budget proposal that will be submitted to the 2017 Legislature for consideration in January.

“My legislative policy agenda will seek to merge state agencies, boards and commissions, as well as begin consolidating certain functions across state government,” Bryant wrote in his budget proposal narrative last month.

He added that such consolidation might not equate to large savings immediately, “but streamlining will result in longterm cost savings and improve the quality of state government services.”

In the budget narrative, the governor not only advocated merging many of the boards and commissions, but also of agencies needing to improve “cross agency collaboration.” He referred to Mississippi state government operating as a “fiefdom” and said similar problems can be found on the local level.

“Most agencies operate in silos, often with their own support staff for information technology, human resources and procurement,” he wrote. “Additionally, small boards and commissions mostly lack strategic shared resources, spaces, staff and budgetary oversight.”

In his first inaugural address, Bryant said he would ask Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, whose office serves as a record-keeper for the state, to identify all of the boards and commissions with the intent of streamlining government.

In the summer of 2013, Hosemann announced his office had identified 204 such boards with 1,400 members governing various aspects of state government. Most have members appointed by the governor or lieutenant governor.

Hosemann has all of the boards and commissions listed on his website.

Some, like the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning or the Board of Education, oversee large portions of the state general fund revenue and have big staffs.

Others, like the Board of Barber Examiners or the Polygraph Examiners Board, have small staffs and operate on fees assessed on groups they oversee or regulate.

And in general such boards are resistant to being merged or consolidated. The barbers and cosmetologists, for instance, say they need their own oversight board because what they do is similar, but different enough to merit a separate regulatory entity.

While Bryant has spoken of consolidating the boards and commissions on occasion, dating back to his first day in office, thus far the Legislature has done little to tackle the issue.

“Anything to right size government, I am for,” said Rep. Jerry Turner, who chairs the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee. He said legislators have been looking at the issue but have a long way to go in the process, although Turner said some legislation could be forthcoming during the 2017 session.

In 2016, Senate Appropriations Chair Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, offered proposals to merge larger agencies, such as Human Services and Medicaid. Those efforts were stalled, with legislators saying additional study is needed.

— bobby.harrison@journalinc.com

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