Bryant, Hosemann still are looking at board mergers

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – A spokesman for Gov. Phil Bryant says he still plans to try to consolidate or eliminate the scores of boards and commissions that govern various state agencies.
But thus far, there’s been no action on the issue by Bryant and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, whom the governor asked during his 2012 inaugural address to study the possibility of reducing the number of boards and commissions.
In the summer of 2012, gubernatorial spokesman Mick Bullock said, “Gov. Bryant and Secretary Hosemann have been reviewing these boards and plan to offer recommendations to the Legislature in the 2013 session.”
But the 2013 session came and went with no recommendation and no changes.
Despite that, Bullock said recently the issue is not dead.
“Gov. Bryant continues to work with Secretary Hosemann and plans to make recommended changes in the 2014 legislative session,” he said.
Pamela Weaver, a spokesman for Hosemann, also said the two statewide Republican officeholders continue to work on the issue.
The issue of merging the boards or commissions is much more complex that it might appear. Governmental turf wars can prove quite troublesome.
For instance, accountants – who are currently regulated by a separate Board of Public Accountancy – might be resistant to being placed under the auspices of the Secretary of State’s Business Services division, as one proposal under discussion would do.
“Of course, a lot of those are funded with their own money,” said House Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Chair Jerry Turner, R-Baldywn of the boards.
Most of the boards and commissions operate on feescollected from the groups they govern. For instance, the state Board of Architecture operates on a fee on architects. The same would be true for many others, such as barbers and foresters.
A handful of better known boards, such as the Board of Health or Board of Education, operate on state general fund dollars derived from taxes on income, retail items and other standard state taxes.
In a November 2012 speech to the Mississippi Economic Council, Hosemann called the more than 150 boards and commissions a fourth branch of government answerable to no one.
“The great majority of the members of these agencies, boards and commissions are good public servants, working only for mileage reimbursement and maybe lunch,” Hosemann said at the time. “But, almost none of them are elected or removable by anyone who is elected after they are appointed. Even with good board members, this system cannot perpetuate.”
In most instances, the panels consist of people nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. In most instances, members serve staggered terms so no governor will have all the appointments to a particular board. In some instances, other entities, such as the lieutenant governor or even the chief justice of the Supreme Court, might have appointments.
Turner said he does not know if the issue will be dealt with during the 2014 session.
“I am definitely in favor of downsizing government,” Turner said, but added he would want to get legislative researchers to look at the issue.
He said it might be an issue better left to the 2015 session, but, that is an election year when legislators are usually hesitant to tackle controversial issues.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com