On the Verge of major government reform – again
The General Assembly returned to Columbia last week for the second half of our two-year term. Amid a typically slow first week on the floor, we made significant progress on a notable Republican Caucus agenda item.
After more than a decade of effort by the House Republican majority, our state is once again on the verge of the biggest streamlining of state government in nearly three decades. We have approved this legislation five times in the past seven years, and other versions of it have been in the legislative pipeline since 2000.
A House-Senate Conference Committee signed off on a “Department of Administration” bill this week that moves the vast majority of the administrative functions of state government – human resources, information technology, state vehicles, and “general services” – under the control of the Governor for the first time.
The bill also effectively eliminates the old Budget and Control Board - a quasi-legislative/executive agency that controlled much of state government.
The House leadership under two speakers, and four House Majority Leaders has worked with Governors Sanford and Haley to make this legislation a reality.
Other notable highlights of the compromise legislation:
•We prohibited any state agency from running a deficit unless it receives the explicit approval of the General Assembly. We whole-heartedly oppose any state agency running a deficit, but this window needs to stay cracked in case of major state emergencies, natural disasters, or other unforeseen calamities.
•We protected the state’s AAA credit rating by creating two small, independent agencies (with a total of fewer than 200 employees) with broad decision making structures to ensure secure management of the state’s fiduciary responsibilities. This includes bonding authority and the state auditor.
•The Office of State Budget and the Board of Economic Advisors will be completely independent from the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly. This will ensure politics does not play a role in effective budgeting.
•The General Assembly is required to review every state agency and every program on a five-year basis. While this isn’t the true “sunset panel” we have advocated for more than a decade, it is a step in the right direction for holding state bureaucrats accountable to the public.We came this close two years ago, but a last-second Senate filibuster killed the Department of Administration bill. We’re at this point again. This bill joins two other major pieces of government reform legislation pending in the state Senate that would give state voters the option of letting the Governor appoint the Adjutant General and the Superintendent of Education.
The House approved both of those bills last year.
Much of the week was reserved for the House Ways and Means subcommittees to begin work on writing the 2014-2015 state budget. January is always a busy time for the House members on that committee as they work on crafting the balanced budget that we have approved every year since voters gave Republicans control of the State House in 1994.
Please contact us if we can assist you. Mike Sottile can be contacted at the Isle of Palms at 886-8759, in Columbia at 803-212-6880, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org Chip Limehouse can be contacted at 740-5855 or 577-6242 in Charleston or 803-734-2977 in Columbia and via email to email@example.com.