Bill could sunset state agencies

APRIL 26, 2010


Should all state agencies be subject to possible dissolution after 12 years, following a review by The Little Hoover Commission and the Legislature? State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, thinks they should and proposed SB887 creating the oversight to make this happen.

In a Senate Governmental Organization Committee held last week, Hollingsworth presented the bill he authored, SB887, saying that it isn’t creating more bureaucracy, but instead streamlines existing oversight, and gives teeth to the Little Hoover Commission.

Existing law creates the Milton Marks “Little Hoover” Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy, an independent state oversight agency, created in 1962 to investigate state government operations, make recommendations and legislative proposals, “in order to promote efficiency, economy and improved service,” according to the Little Hoover Commission Web site. The Commission includes 4 members of the Legislature. Existing law specifies that the members of the Legislature serving as members of the commission be considered a joint committee of the two houses of the Legislature constituted and acting as an investigating committee.

Hollingsworth is interested in shutting down agencies that do not provide services. He wants to consolidate redundant services and modernize agencies with this bill. Twenty other states have already done this, and Texas, has abolished 58 obsolete agencies, according to Hollingsworth.

Supportive of the bill: the California Taxpayers’ Association, the Inspector General’s Recovery Department, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, all citing the need for accountability of spending, stopping the waste and inefficiency in government and even “stupid spending.”

Committee Chairman Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, challenged the notion that if the Legislature does not act on the recommendation presented by the Little Hoover Commission, the commission can abolish the agency. “I can’t support the bill,” said Wright, “if a non-elected body can do something about it.” Hollingsworth said that the bill merely forces the Legislature to review one-twelfth of the state agencies every year.  Wright asked, “What if I don’t want to hear it?” referring to the commission’s recommendation. “What if the speaker says I don’t want to hear it?” asked Wright.

Hollingsworth answered, “We can do what we’ve always done – Nothing. At least it forces some type of look at government every 12 years.”

Wright stated that the Legislature doesn’t have to act on any bill.

Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter, said that the Legislature should already be providing this kind of oversight, and possibly review state agencies every two years. Florez was critical of how the reports of the Little Hoover Commission just sit on shelves instead of being acted upon. Florez said that he sits on the Little Hoover Commission which “does not build confidence, does not have power and we are ignored by the government departments.”

Opposition came from the California State Auditor Elaine Howle, concerned with redundancy.  Howle said that she already performs much of what Hollingsworth’s bill proposes, and has the authority to “self-initiate audits in agencies for waste and mismanagement.” Howle explained that her department has industry and historical knowledge of the agencies and departments within each.

Hollingsworth stressed that SB887 gives teeth to the process by taking all of what the Legislative Analysts Office, the Bureau of State Auditors and the Department of Finance already does, right to the Legislature. “The Legislature could still choose to ignore the audit requests, but this bill will make it less likely for them to ignore the auditing agencies,” said Hollingsworth.

Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, spoke in support of Hollingsworth’s bill saying, “whenever we conduct an audit, the agency must respond.” Denham said that it would appear that reforms have been put in place “at the administration level,” but the real challenge is in conducting different audits, and seeing that the reports that don’t end up implemented come under procedural and public scrutiny. “People in the state are demanding to see cuts in bureaucracy,” said Denham.

Florez said the governor could already be doing what the bill proposes, by asking the Department of Finance to audit every agency. Hollingsworth disagreed: “There is no way the governor could do that type of thing without this bill.”

Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Carlsbad, said that the Department of Finance is not equipped with the personnel or the depth to conduct audits of every state agency. “They assemble budgets,” said Wyland. “The public wants it – we need it,” concluded Wyland.

The committee vote was 3-3, and was left on call.

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