By BOBBY HARRISON / Daily Journal

JACKSON – The “back shop,” or administrative functions, for about 20 small state agencies will be centralized under legislation that passed the Senate and is pending in the House.

The legislation, authored by Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, would create the Office of Shared Services within the Department of Finance and Adminstration to handle such issues as payrolls, accountancy services and technology services.

It is estimated that the sharing of the services could save the state $600,000 or more per year.

“It is to save money,” Clarke said recently. “…Some of these agencies might have one or two employees.”

A stated goal of Gov. Phil Bryant when he was inaugurated in 2012 was to combine some of the 200 boards and commissions that oversee various aspects of state government. That effort has had limited success because, in part, many of the boards and commissions are regulatory agencies that operate on fees from the professions being regulated and there is a reluctance to give up that authority.

In the 2017 session, the Occupational Board Compliance Act was passed giving a three-member commission of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state the authority to review and veto policies developed by some regulatory agencies.

Clarke said the legislation pending this year would not try to take away the authority of the agencies to establish regulations.

“This has nothing to do with their ability to govern,” Clarke said. “This is just some back office help, trying to save some money.”

The bill passed the Senate earlier this session by a 40-12 margin. A similar House bill died when it was not taken up in the full House on a deadline day.

But now the Senate bill is pending in the House.

The governor proposed a concept similar to the Clarke bill in his budget proposal released before the session began in January.

In his budget narrative, Bryant said, “Unfortunately, Mississippi’s government remains fragmented, with most agencies operating in silos. One simple solution is to implement a shared-services model for back-office operations (such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, budgeting, payroll, grants accounting, procurement, etc.) that would improve quality of services while simultaneously saving the state money.”

The agencies impacted by the Clarke bill would range from the Board of Architecture to the Board of Funeral Services to the Board of Optometry to the Board of Veterinary Medicine.

The bill as it is currently written would require DFA to immediately begin researching what services it would be financially advantageous to the state to take over for which agency with a mandate to complete the transaction by July 2019.

The Department of Finance and Administration oversees the enactment of the budget developed by the Legislature. Clarke said DFA could develop the Office of Shared Services at no additional cost to take care of the smaller agencies’ administrative functions.