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story.lead_photo.caption Gov. Asa Hutchinson (center) signs the Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019 during a ceremony Thursday afternoon at the state Capitol. Act 910 allows the governor to reduce the number of agencies reporting to him from 42 to 15. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday signed a 2,047-page bill into law that will implement his plan to reduce the number of state agencies reporting to him from 42 to 15, effective July 1.

The Republican governor also announced the creation of a transition team to help with the implementation of House Bill 1763 by Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock. The legislation is now Act 910, Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said.

The transition team will be chaired by the governor's chief transformation officer Amy Fecher, who also serves as executive vice president of operations at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. In addition to Fecher, the team has 15 members, including governor's office legislative liaison Conley Hurst, the son of Department of Arkansas Heritage Director Stacy Hurst.

Hutchinson said the transition team "will be setting the stage for the 15 Cabinet secretaries that will be announced most likely within the next 30 days."

"The work to a large extent has been done from a legislative standpoint, but this transformation effort, the heavy lifting will begin now," he said at a news conference in the state Capitol. "We are going to be committed to it. We are going to be working hard to make sure that it is successful.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

"Our objectives are better managerial control ... to make sure that we provide services to the taxpayers of Arkansas and we do it efficiently," Hutchinson said.

The governor declined to explicitly say whether he is looking at bringing new people in as Cabinet-level secretaries, after a reporter asked that question.

"Stay tuned," he said. "Obviously, I am very, very happy with the Cabinet that I have, so I fully expect there to be an interview process and we'll look at that very closely as to who those secretaries should be. We have been careful to keep personalities out of this debate on transformation, but I don't want to limit myself as to what we are going to announce and what we are going to be able to do. I have made a commitment to make sure that we do this transformation with no new money and no new personnel and so to do that, obviously you got to utilize existing resources."

Afterward, Davis said Conley Hurst was included on the transition team based on his exceptional abilities and that doesn't mean the governor has already decided to promote Stacy Hurst to a Cabinet secretary post.

Act 910 establishes the following Cabinet-level departments: agriculture; commerce; corrections; education; energy and environment; finance and administration; health; human services; inspector general; labor and licensing; military; parks, heritage and tourism; public safety; transformation and shared services; and veteran affairs.

Act 910 requires the Office of Personnel Management, as directed by the governor, to establish and submit the appropriate class code, grade or line-item maximum for each Cabinet-level secretary to the Legislative Council or to the Joint Budget Committee for its review before July 1.

Hutchinson has estimated that the reorganization effort could save about $15 million a year beginning in fiscal 2021, which starts July 1, 2020.

The reorganization represents the most sweeping overhaul of state government since 1971 when then-Gov. Dale Bumpers, a Democrat, led an initiative to meld 60 agencies into 13 departments under Act 38 of that year.

"This transformation is not just any transformation," Hutchinson said. "It is not just a redoing of the executive branch agencies."

Hutchinson said the reorganization will create a new Department of Transformation and Shared Services "which will be the first in the United States of America for state government that will have a private-sector business model that will develop in state government.

"It gives us the Inspector General's Office that will be a broad look at executive branch agencies in terms of savings. It will give us a new Department of Public Safety, a new Department of Commerce and on and on down the list converting 42 different departments of government down to 15," he said.

Hutchinson said the reorganization would place about 200 state boards and commissions in either the Department of Health or the Department of Labor and Licensing to "give the support for what we are trying to accomplish with professional licensing and efficiencies at the same time."

Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, said, "We got a little grief about why Rep. Davis was in the Senate committee so long," referring to the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affair Committee, where the bill was vetted for a few weeks.

"Well, that's because we actually read the bills," Hendren joked. "We were very thorough and I am very confident that the legislation is better because of us. But it was a joint effort. The transformation team was amazing."

The Senate's amendment to the bill took the Public Service Commission out of the proposed Department of Energy and Environment to make it independent, and will allow the banking, insurance and securities departments in the proposed Department of Commerce and the Plant Board in the proposed Department of Agriculture to maintain rule-making abilities and independence from their respective Cabinet secretaries.

The governor's office said the other members of the 15-member transition team include:

• Becky Anderson, Arkansas Economic Development Commission director of strategic support services.

• Chad Brown, Office of State Procurement statewide program manager.

• Charlie Collins, Department of Finance and Administration budget and policy manager. He is a former Republican state representative from Fayetteville.

• Steve Goode, Tobacco Control director.

• Solomon Graves, Department of Correction's public information and legislative liaison.

• Jay Harton, Department of Information Systems chief operating officer.

• Danni Hoeffer, Alcoholic Beverage Control medical marijuana attorney.

• Alex Johnson, Arkansas Economic Development Commission director of rural services.

• Caleb Osborne, Department of Environmental Quality associate director.

• Steven Porch, Department of Career Education litigation attorney.

• Ann Purvis, Department of Health deputy director for administration.

• Mitch Rouse, Department of Environmental Quality chief of staff.

• Phillip Warriner, Arkansas State Police human resources administrator.

• Brooke Woodward, assistant transformation officer in the governor's office.

Metro on 04/12/2019

Print Headline: Bill is signed to reorganize state agencies


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