The Great Cost Cutter Cometh

Edmund G. Brown Jr., the Tight-With-a-Taxpayer-Dime Democratic governor hath issued an executive order, his signature affixed thereto, this day (December 12) in the Year of Our Lord 2011 ordering “agency secretaries and department directors (to) prepare a list of all reports that they are required to submit to the Legislature and identify those that may no longer be of significant value to the Legislature.”

According to the Great Cost Cutter, “substantial efforts and costs are expended in preparing, tracking and filing these reports.”

There are approximately 2,600 such reports required annually, sayeth the GCC, according to an audit by his Department of Finance.

Some of these reports have been required for 20 years – nine years shy of the date Brown left office as governor last time around.

“This governor doesn’t want this state to be on autopilot and given oru fiscal challenges we need to govern smarter,” said evan Estrup, a spokesman for Brown.

It’s unknown how much Brown’s executive order will save.

In the short-term it seems more costly than the status quo.

Shoehorned between their other existing responsibilities, each agency and department shall now decide:

 “Whether the report is the result of a specific budget bill and the required information is no longer timely or relevant.”

(Seems like something the agency or department might know already. And, if they didn’t, the Legislature would probably stop yipping about it if they considered it no longer needed.)

“Whether the report is still relevant or necessary given a change in law or circumstances.”

 (Given that ol’ separation of powers thing, seems like if the Legislature initially mandated the report, they rule on its continued necessity.)

“Whether other sources of information or other reports provide the same or similar information.”

(If so, send the Legislature an email and move on.)

“And whether interested stakeholders continue to rely on the report, or whether there are other public interests in continuing to prepare the report.”

(As opposed to the disinterested stakeholders.)

For the Great Cost Cutter and those who must implement his executive vision, a trip to the website of the Legislative Counsel might prove edifying.

There, at www.agencyreports.ca.gov, is a list of those state and local entities that must submit these costly and time-consuming tomes to Sacramento’s solons. 

The list of those who must send reports is long, although it doesn’t appear to total anything close to 2,600.

Some reports also aren’t filed annually. The governor, for example, is supposed to file a report every four years on the state’s environmental goals and policies. The Legidslative Counsel shows no record of receipt of any such report.

The International Genocide Memorial Commission only reports biannually to the Joint Committee on Rules on the progress of building a genocide memorial in Capitol Park.

That means the commission — created by 2006 legislation carried by then Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, a Van Nuys Democrat – has only had to file two reports over the past five years.

A Google search yielded no copies of any report, suggesting that the commission, which still exists, has squandered neither time nor cost on the mandate.

Any number of local agencies, including many of the state’s 58 counties, several of California’s larger ports and a smattering of school districts comprise a large chunk of the reporting list.

In fairness to the Great Cost Cutter, other state agencies besides the commission must report more often and in greater volume to the Legislature.

“It’s a constitutional requirement for the Legislature to compile current data to maintain state oversight and set appropriate budgeting for administrative activities,’ said Mark Hedlund, press secretary for Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat.

Some of those agencies send more than one report annually and even a few semi-annually.

The Department of Child Support Services, just to pick one, is required to send seven reports to the Legislature at least once each year.

According to the Legislative Counsel’s website, it has submitted reports in only three of the four areas mandated by the Legislature, the most recent filing being April 15, 2008.

Perhaps to ease the cost and time involved, the department elected to bundle the eight semiannual reports on the status of California’s child support enforcement program owed the Legislature for the 2002 through 2005 fiscal years into one report, submitted to lawmakers two years later on April 26, 2007.

Several other state entities, acting on their own without the mandate of the governor’s executive order, have taken the same tack.

The Historic State Capitol Commission filed its first and only annual report – this one for 1999 – on April 26, 2003.

Similarly, of the five reports the Governor’s Office is required to send lawmakers, the Legislative Counsel indicates 80 percent have never been sent including an annual report on reprieves, pardons and commutations granted, an annual report on “trends and developments in (the) California economy” and a report on “all judgments or settlements against the state not theretofore reported.”

No garment rending or teeth gnashing by lawmakers over this refusal to comply with their demands has been reported.

The governor – not the current occupant – did submit four annual reports on the California Traffic Safety Program, the last in 2005.

Perhaps that’s because, as the Legislative Counsel’s website says:

“At various times since the early 1990s, as cost-saving measures, statutes have been enacted to suspend, under specified conditions, such as a report not required by a court or federal law, and for specified periods of time, the requirement in other laws that written reports be prepared and submitted by state and local agencies to the Legislature or the governor.

“The ‘List of Agencies with Reports Due’ on this site does not identify whether any listed report is subject to any of those reporting moratoriums.”



Filed under: Governor

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