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If recent history is any indicator when it comes to the legislative legacy of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the state's chief executive's plan to reduce/realign/reformat state agencies will be dealt with sooner rather than later in this new 92nd General Assembly.

Ever since taking office four years ago in a GOP surge of power in Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has tackled the hardest issues head on and often first on his legislative agenda.

While some may debate whether this shifting of agencies, councils and committees of state government under a much smaller number of umbrellas is really doing more than pushing around the deck chairs on an ocean liner -- there is only so much space available.

But our governor sees this as a "diamond" in his legacy.

He will forever be able to do what a former Arkansas governor, Dale Bumpers, did.

And modern history will try to record that Hutchinson, perhaps, did it better than the late Bumpers.

But in reality, that will not be the case.

Just for the record, the four-year term of Dale Leon Bumpers in office has almost NO scandals of agency chiefs, employees or others in the types of legislative errors and omissions of ethics we have seen under the GOP rule of Hutchinson and the Republican Party in power.

But try as Asa will, and possibly accomplish, the awfully long and complex bills filed to reorganize state government, will eventually pass. It is like herding cats (or the 135 legislators, even if the majority of them are from the state political party) or something more complex and confusing.

Every agency has grown to its own little fiefdom.

Most of the agency directors in the era of reduced term limits, were out among the 135 elected officials -- directing the lawmakers' efforts at funding programs within the agency, all the while lining up those solons who were looking to jump, when term-limited, from the House to the Senate or even back from the Senate to the House to keep their friends in office.

And as we have seen over the last decade, which is before the Hutchinson era began, term-limited legislators often went right to work heading an agency or at least advising agencies from their many years of developing laws, rules and codes for the state agencies themselves.

When term limits were short -- six years in the House and eight years in the State Senate -- there was a great outcry from state board leadership, state agency heads and others helping run state government that the time for the learning curve for new state lawmakers was too short.

Taking the over 70 state boards, commissions and agencies and molding them into a dozen or so "super agencies," is the Hutchinson goal.

In looking at the list of paring "like" boards, commissions and agencies into units, there is one central issue that surfaces.

The boards, commissions, agencies that make revenue were parlayed into these units first.

Those boards, commissioners and agencies that really don't generate fees, taxes, income or revenue were added to those who did bring in dollars to the state's coffers.

All in all, each of these divisions of state government -- while like-minded in scope and perhaps purpose -- are sub-divided into smaller budgets. Those who make revenue must -- I repeat, must -- take care of those indispensable agencies which do not make revenue.

This plan is akin to all the budgets passed under the Hutchinson administration -- bare bones and balanced.

Will the current division of these state agencies pass lawmaker muster? That remains to be seen. But long gone are the days of more than 70 separate reporting agencies to the governor's office for oversight.

Smaller looks better -- even if it is isn't actually a smaller government. It is just more compressed.

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Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 02/06/2019

Print Headline: The 'big' thing is reorganization of state agencies

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