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One of the largest legislative bills in recent history, Act 910, to create cabinet-level secretaries over the consolidation and reorganization of state agencies reporting directly to the governor, is starting to take hold.

This week, Governor Asa Hutchinson, in a one-page letter to all 42 previous state agencies, asking that "holds" be placed on "any anticipated, yet significant, new or renewed financial or contractual commitments currently under review."

Remember Act 910 will reduce the number of reporting agencies to the governor from 42 to 15.

And remember this, Gentle Voters, there will be 15 new "kingmaker" jobs out there for friends of the governor.


Yes, there will be 15 new cabinet-level positions to oversee these 42 agencies. There will be no elimination of positions within these 42 agencies -- just the addition of 15 new cabinet secretaries to direct these 42 agencies and their needs to the governor's office.

Act 910 is an act that has been needed.

The last consolidation of agencies under the control of the governor's office occurred under Gov. Dale Bumpers back in the early 1970s. History should record that the consolidation (a bad word in legislative lingo) was first asked for by the Rockefeller Administration but soundly defeated by the super majority Democrat controlled legislature. After Bumpers' surprise ouster of Winthrop Rockefeller, the consolidation plan was easier business to streamline state government -- even by a very inexperienced politician at the time, like Dale Bumpers.

But change is coming.

This one-page letter is but an early shot across the bow of these 42 agencies, which armed with new budgets from the recently adjourned legislature were set to begin implementing their standard two-year plans of action.

But no so fast, the letter, warns.

These new 15 individuals, some of whom may have held positions in these 42 agencies, will begin July 1 as new positions -- stronger positions, for sure, than the power wielded by these combined 42 posts in past administrations.

These new 15 cabinet-level secretaries will, no doubt, be some former or sitting legislators, some say.

So expect some early reelection or election announcements to be coming from various spots in the state. When a sitting state senator or long-time state house members gets tabbed for these cabinet level posts -- well a "hole" will open up in the 135 member legislature.

Will some of these new posts be more friends of the Governor? Most likely.

Who else would you expect the governor (no matter who is serving in the state capitol's executive suite) to choose than people he knows and trusts and with whom he has an ongoing working relationship?

How long will some of these 15 cabinet secretaries serve? That's a tricky question. Many of those who began with the Hutchinson administration have left their policy and management posts, as with any new administration. Some, however, may be lured back with these new strategically and politically created positions to oversee multiple state agencies within a specific area of expertise.

There are lots of things we will see done by these cabinet secretaries that will focus on the financial integrity of the office holder. Their steps will be larger, more public and more, we hope, transparent for the financial and service delivery good of Arkansans.

The letter sent out this week by the governor wants the purchasing, leasing and planning for the future left up to these hand-picked individuals he is going to announce soon.

Sounds like a job where Day 1 will be more than just setting up the files and finding out where the coffeepot is located in this administration.

While Act 910 was a necessity of time, not everyone was happy about the shuffling and combining of agencies under these new 15 cabinet positions.

Time will tell. Time will tell.

• • •

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

Editorial on 05/08/2019

Print Headline: Here come the cabinet secretaries and consolidation

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