Sunday, April 29, 2012
Last week, in my comments on the ongoing state government restructuring saga, I promised details of the Senate bill we in the House found so baffling. You may recall that the House has produced and passed three Department of Administration bills in the last four years, only to have them languish without Senate action. Finally, we got the Senate version, which was so convoluted it took almost a month to work through. When we finally were able to get the entire text, it has become known jokingly around the House as the RINO bill. That is “restructuring in name only.” The way it shakes out, not only is the much maligned Budget and Control Board not eliminated, but there is also a new agency, among the ten created by the bill, called the Bond Review Board, which consists of the governor, Comptroller General, Treasurer, and a Senate and House member, remarkably similar to the old Budget and Control Board. The new entity was recently reviewed by the National Credit Rating Agency. They affirmed that our AAA credit rating would be in jeopardy if the Bond Review Board feature is ratified as proposed. In addition to the fiscal integrity issues, the Senate’s 10-agency plan contains other accountability oversights and gaps. The Senate bill has created the Procurement Oversight Board and assigned board members and departments to oversee, but failed to give the agency any authority to run itself or promulgate executive actions. That leaves the decision-making authority to the old Budget and Control Board, which was never officially eliminated in the Senate’s bill. Bluffton Today One of the more curious features of the Senate bill would have an agency that provides independent fiscal impact statements on legislation under control of the General Assembly. Truly a fox in the hen house. Without some sort of independent fiscal oversight, our budget process, I fear, would soon shed its hard-won frugality. After the shock and amazement wore off, those of us in the House leadership set to work re-crafting legislation to place 85% of the old Budget and Control Board into the Department of Administration and formally dissolving the rest of the board. We have to give the governor true authority over the executive administration of our state. We will promote efficiency by reducing the number of agencies and maximizing the scope of the Department of Administration and eliminating the Budget and Control Board. In truth, we must give the governor real executive powers regardless of our opinion of the abilities or inclinations of this particular governor. I believe we can retain checks and balances to restrain executive imprudence and overreach, while creating a system that will have three branches of government. Our conversations with our Senate colleagues have to begin with that somewhat difficult and delicate balance. Finally, an update on the Medicaid security breach I recently reported. True to his word, Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck has taken proactive measures to reduce or eliminate the possibility of identity theft situations resulting from the unfortunate breach of computer security. You have probably noticed that prominent informational pieces have been running in most of the major papers in the state, including Bluffton Today. There is an appropriate apology and a list of free services offered by the agency. Among these is a free credit report that includes daily credit monitoring to detect suspicious activity, as well as a $1 million identity theft insurance policy. Again, the toll-free number is 1-888-829-6561. These things are rare, but it is best to get out in front of them. My confidence in Director Keck is unshaken.