Before the Christmas holiday, State Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock, and Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, filed legislation that outlines Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s state government reorganization efforts.
Hutchinson unveiled his desire to consolidate a number of boards, agencies and commissions from 42 to 15 in October 2018. The governor said that he needed fewer direct reporting cabinet members to manage sprawling state government. He also said that the government reorganization would eventually streamline and improve services and save money without resulting in layoffs of state employees.
HB 1070 is the overarching measure that establishes the new cabinet-level departments and transfers various state government entities to new silos. In all, the following cabinet-level departments would be created under the bill:
The Department of Agriculture;
The Department of Commerce;
The Department of Corrections;
The Department of Education;
The Department of Energy and Environment;
The Department of Finance and Administration;
The Department of Health;
The Department of Human Services;
The Department of the Inspector General;
The Department of Labor and Licensing;
The Department of Military;
The Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism;
The Department of Public Safety;
The Department of Transformation and Shared Services; and
The Department of Veteran Affairs.
The executive head of each cabinet-level department shall be named “the secretary” of that department.
The bill notes that all department heads shall be appointed by the governor and serve at his pleasure unless otherwise stated by law. It also gives the secretaries latitude to delegate their powers and duties to department employees, hire cabinet-level department personnel, and to serve as a director or administrator of any state entity under the administrative control of the cabinet-level department if the secretary also meets all statutory requirements for the position.
With the reorganization affecting such a significant amount of the Arkansas Code, HB 1070 provides the Arkansas Code Revision Commission with wide latitude to correct technical or conflicting errors in code.
The new law reorganizing state government, if approved, would go into effect on July 1, 2019.
HB 1071 outlines the specific duties for the newly created Secretary of Veteran Affairs. HB 1072 outlines the responsibilities of the Secretary of Health under the reorganized plan.