Merging State Agencies: Scott Team Addresses House Committee
Around the State
Gov. Rick Scott’s team came to the newly formed House Select Committee on Government Reorganization Wednesday afternoon, ready to push their agenda -- streamlining the state’s various economic development efforts.
How do you do that? First by creating a new department of commerce and by shaking up the agencies that focus on health and human services.
The committee was meeting for the first time Wednesday, beginning the process of cutting down regulations and streamlining government.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, established the committee earlier in the month so that the Legislature will be ready to grapple with these two issues when the regular session opens in March.
Speaker Pro Tempore John Legg, R-Port Richey, the chairman of the committee, offered his take on what the committee hopes to achieve.
“This committee is charged with closely examining the way our government currently functions and reviewing whether or not our state government is working for Floridians,” said Legg. “Over time, with direct or indirect approval by the Florida Legislature, state agencies have assumed responsibilities that detract from the primary functions of government, and too often the resulting regulations have led to undue burden on the private sector and our state’s citizens.
“It is the goal of this committee to identify those unnecessary or duplicative services within government and find ways to resolve or eliminate them in order to streamline the size and scope of our state government,” continued Legg. “Encouraging economic activity and working to foster an environment that promotes private-sector job creation is a high priority of the Florida House and to do that we must keep government in its proper place.”
Legg opened the meeting by thanking the members, all of whom volunteered to be on the committee and promised that they will be working hard in the weeks to come.
“It’s going to take a lot of energy and effort and that is what this committee is all about,” said Legg.
A good deal of that energy and effort will focus on Scott’s proposal to reorganize state agencies tackling economic development.
“It’s obviously an important conversation for all of us to have,” said Chris Hart, the director of the governor’s Tourism, Trade and Economic Development office, in his remarks to the committee on Scott’s behalf.
“There’s a lot about the model we have today that is good,” Hart noted as he reviewed the current system. “There’s a difference between being competitive and winning.”
But Hart added that the Scott administration had concerns about the system currently in place, noting that Florida is now competing globally and required speed, which Hart calls the “new economic currency.”
“That model is, in essence, a 20th century model,” said Hart. “The business model we need to build is to compete and win today and to compete and win tomorrow.
“To win, we have to create an environment in Florida conducive for job development and job growth,” added Hart.
He said that Scott wants to shake up the state economic development efforts by streamlining in a lone agency with a single fund overseen by a single leader able to hold others accountable. Hart said this new system would be more efficient and competitive, and also would be able to respond rapidly to developments.
Teresa Tinker, the committee’s co-staff director who also serves in the same position for the Economic Affairs Committee, offered an overview of the state’s current programs focusing on economic development.
Tinker touched on some of the public-private partnerships already set up for economic development, including Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida and Space Florida, as well as state agencies including the Agency for Workforce Innovation and Workforce Florida. She also noted that the Department of Community Affairs and the Department of State managed community development efforts.
Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, asked Tinker if companies considering moving to Florida were subject to duplication of efforts between these various agencies.
“I think the answer is yes,” said Tinker. “We can clean up the process.
“There is a lot of streamlining that can be done,” insisted Tinker.
In her review of the state’s resources and agencies looking to lure businesses to the Sunshine State, Tinker maintained that Scott had an important function as the state’s top salesman.
“The governor has a key role to play,” said Tinker, noting that Scott “could be key to improving Florida’s economic competitiveness.”
Carol Gormley, the other co-staff director who handles the same responsibilities for the House Health and Human Services Committee, offered the select committee an overview of the state’s agencies tackling health issues. These included the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Agency for Persons With Disabilities, and four departments: Children and Families, Elder Affairs, Health, and Veterans’ Affairs.
The Scott team is also looking at streamlining state government on health and human services issues and has sent up trial balloons that some of the departments -- namely Children and Families, Health, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and the Agency for Health Care Administration -- could wind up in a new Department of Health and Human Services.
A representative of the administration told the committee that the Scott team was open to examining what the state’s role was on health and human services matters.
“If there is an opportunity to shed services to the private sector … we would like to explore options,” said Tamara Demko, the chief of staff at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Demko insisted that the Scott administration was not looking to go back to previous models on health matters.
Legg said that the committee would be dealing with Scott’s proposals in the coming weeks by reviewing them, hearing from stakeholders and examining what other states are doing.
“This committee meeting was just the first step in tackling this complex issue during the 2011 legislative session,” said Legg. “We look forward to the work that lies ahead and to making certain that our state government is working for, not against, Floridians looking to build and grow businesses.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (85) 727-0859.