Statehouse Report – April 24, 2008

There’s been much talk over the past few years about restructuring state government in order to be more efficient.

This year, the House has now passed two bills to move our state in this positive direction (of course, the House has passed similar bills in years past – only to see them go nowhere).

This week, we voted to move five state agencies to the control of the governor’s office: general services, human resources, the CIO’s office, procurement services, and the state energy office. These offices provide administrative services, rather than providing services directly to the people of South Carolina.

That bill (approved Tuesday) is the second piece of a two-part restructuring effort this year passed by the House. In late March, we approved a bill that will allow the governor to appoint the Secretary of State and the Superintendent of Education, as well as allow the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor to run on the same ticket. If approved by the Senate, the voters will get the chance to decide on each of these positions during the November elections. Remember, you will get the final say on whether those positions would remain elected statewide, as they are now, or instead would be appointed by future Governors.

During the debate this week on the department moves above, critics argued that the new “Department of Administration” would actually cost taxpayers more money. They also said we were “growing government” with a new agency.

Obviously, as a fiscal conservative, I would have voted against the bill if those arguments were true. However, findings from a commission released earlier this year showed that there would be a net cost savings because of the new efficiencies.

For the Legislature (at least the House) to pass a law that some could see as “giving the Governor’s Office more power” – well, that’s a big step.

Over the past several years, there have been other departments moved under the control of the governor’s office and we’ve seen excellent success because of those moves.

* Moving the Department of Motor Vehicles meant a dramatic turn-around in waits and response time for services.

* Reforming the Department of Transportation by requiring objective standards and more oversight has shown major changes in that department, including a savings of nearly $10 million this year.

* Moving the Departments of Corrections and Parks Recreation and Tourism have shown both can operate much more efficiently than before.

It’s my hope the Senate will agree with the bills we’ve passed – or at least debate them and send us “their verson” so that we can hopefully pass some sort of real restructuring this year.

In other news this week:

* Our Calendar is quite full as we continue to work hard to move bills to the Senate before the May 1 crossover date. If a bill fails to cross chambers by this date, there’s very little chance it will become law.

* Attempts to pass a COLA for state retirees (without a General Assembly increase) continue to be thwarted

* Comprehensive Immigration Reform is now uncertain due to various reasons (Senate says House, House says Senate)