State law enforcement agencies consolidated, state Homeland Security eliminated in proposed bill


Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston

A bill prefiled by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, would consolidate more than 20 state law enforcement agencies and eliminate the Alabama Department of Homeland Security.

In a concurrent move, Gov. Robert Bentley’s office announced Friday that current Alabama Department of Homeland Security director Spencer Collier would be appointed to a newly created position in his cabinet, Senior Law Enforcement Advisor, to coordinate “efforts to streamline state-level law enforcement functions.”

A spokesman for Bentley said Friday morning the appointment would take effect on Tuesday, when Bentley is scheduled to hold a press conference outlining his proposals. A release from Bentley’s office Friday morning said Collier would remain Homeland Security director.

Bentley said in a statement he would look to introduce his own legislation.

“The goal we all share is increasing efficiency in state-level law enforcement,” Bentley said in a statement. “We are all bringing new ideas to the table, and the end result for the public will be greater government efficiency and improved public safety. We will be presenting some legislation in the near future to outline further methods of achieving this goal.”

Lawmakers including Marsh had discussed consolidating the state’s various investigative bureaus as a means of saving money in the coming fiscal year, and the item was part of the House Republican caucus’ agenda, unveiled Thursday.

“This proposal, like many others we’ll take up this session, will fundamentally change the landscape of state government and we know that won’t be easy,” Marsh said in a statement. “But we owe it to the taxpayers to move heaven and earth on their behalf to make sure we’re living within our means.”

Marsh’s legislation would create a Department of Public Safety within the executive branch of state government, headed by a Secretary of Public Safety who would also serve as Homeland Security director. The agency would consist of a Department of Public Safety; a Department of Investigation and a Department of Public Safety Training.

Law enforcement units of the Public Service Commission; the Department of Revenue and the Alabama Department of Transportation would be consolidated under the Highway Patrol Division of the Department of Public Safety.

The Marine Police Divisions of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Alabama State Port Authority would be combined into a new Marine Police Divsion within the Department of Public Safety. In addition, conservation officers appointed by Conservation and Natural Resources would be moved into a new Conservation Enforcement Division.

Investigation units of the State Fire Marshal; the Alabama Forestry Commission; the Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Office of Prosecution Services would be moved into the newly created department, along with the law enforcement division of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) board.

The move would abolish the Alabama Criminal Justice Information System Commission and put the system within the Department of Investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Homeland Security Tuesday directed questions to Governor Bentley’s office.

The Department of Homeland Security is slated to receive $628,636 from the $1.68 billion General Fund in the current fiscal year. The Department usually gets significantly more in federal dollars: In FY 2012, the department received $374,335 from the General Fund and $1.8 million from the federal government.

If the bill is approved by the Legislature and signed into law, the Secretary of Public Safety position would be created immediately. The Department and the subsequent consolidations would take effect on Oct. 1, 2014.

– posted by Brian Lyman (updated at 11:03 a.m. and 1:40 p.m.)

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