Gov. Robert Bentley Thursday morning signed measures that will consolidate several law enforcement agencies, appoint an information technology secretary to streamline the state’s IT systems and improvement management of the state’s car fleet.
Bentley and supporters gathered at a signing ceremony at the old State Capitol said they expected the measures to save money and promote efficiency in state government, but acknowledged they didn’t have hard numbers on how much money would be saved or what positions, if any, would be eliminated under the proposals. However, they said they expected the bills to provide greater coordination between law enforcement personnel and better delivery of their services.
“When we’re dealing with money that belongs to the people of this state that is paid in taxes, we need to be as efficient as we possibly can with that money,” Bentley said prior to the signing.
The law enforcement consolidation bill, a project of Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, creates an Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency, divided into a Department of Public Safety and a State Bureau of Investigations and headed by a Secretary who would hold cabinet-level status. Investigators currently working with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Department of Revenue would be transferred to the Bureau of Investigations. The law enforcement division of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) would also be moved to the Bureau.
The current law enforcement units of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Department of Revenue would be moved to a new Highway Patrol Division established under the Department of Public Safety. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Marine Police Division would be moved into the new DPS.
“It not only is going to be a more efficient (Department of) Public Safety, it’s going to more efficiently deliver those services to the citizens of this state, and that’s what it’s all about,” Marsh said at the signing.
The consolidation begins immediately, and is expected to be complete by Jan. 1, 2015. An analysis of the bill by the Legislative Fiscal Office last month found the bill would shift existing budget costs of the affected departments into the new agency. However, Bentley said the new agency could find efficiencies through methods like bulk purchasing, while improving coordination between the various law enforcement agencies.
The effects on personnel, and existing positions within law enforcement, were not clear. Bentley said it would be a “slow process.”
“Our goal is not to relieve people of their jobs,” Bentley said. “We may have to consolidate and trim, but we will try to do that through retirements and attrition.”
Mac Gipson, administrator of the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control board, said about 135 of his employees would be affected. However, he said some of the work being done could be carried out more efficiently by non-uniformed personnel, who would have to be paid the clothing allowance or see the more expensive retirement benefits of uniformed officers.
“In a lot of cases, where we’re doing regulation and licensure work, we can do that with properly trained civilians,” he said.
Bentley said he had someone in mind for the Secretary’s position, but was not ready to announce his choice.
Members of the House’s Black Caucus had objected to the bill, saying it did not provide enough training standards and removed Col. Hugh McCall, the current DPS director, from Bentley’s cabinet. McCall is one two African-Americans in the Governor’s cabinet.
McCall was present at the ceremony Thursday but declined comment. Bentley praised McCall’s service afterward, saying he had done a “fantastic job,” and said race would not be a factor in his selection of a Secretary for the new department.
“Whoever I put there will be put there because of their qualifications, and it will have nothing to do with the color of their skin,” he said.
The IT bill will create a Secretary of Information Technology, who Bentley said would be charged with streamlining the state’s IT systems, save money and coordinate the efforts of various departments.
Bentley also signed an executive order creating an Office of Fleet Management within the state Department of Transportation, led by a Fleet Manager who would be tasked with a “uniform statewide program to ensure we’re managing the fleet as efficiently as possible,” Bentley said.
– posted by Brian Lyman