Gang, meet House Bill 25.  House Bill 25 is a proposal by Representative Adams (of the “let’s repeal the State’s income tax” fame) to “consolidate a number of state agencies.  It’s based on a similar proposal former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro (R) first proposed during the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary against Ken Blackwell.  It was offered as “red meat” for the more moderate Petro to offer to try and win over the more conservative elements of his party away from Ken Blackwell.

Here’s what House Bill 25 would do.  It would essentially abolish the following agencies (most of which are Cabinet-level agencies):

Those agencies’ duties, for the most part, are assigned to new division created in existing, but modified agencies as follows (in order):

  • DAS duties’ become part of the Department of Finance and Operations (now known as the Office of Budget and Management).
  • Agriculture goes to the Department of Resource Protection (now known as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources).
  • The Liquor Control goes to the mammoth Department of Business (now known as the Department of Commerce)
  • Mental Health goes to a bloated agency called the Department of Public Health (now known as the Department of Health).
  • Department of Developmental Disabilities goes, in part to Department of Public Health, but job placement duties go to the Dept. of Human Resource Development (now known as the ODJFS.)
  • Insurance goes to Business.
  • Youth Services goes to the the Department of Community and Institutional Rehabilitation (now know as the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.)
  • Ohio EPA goes to “Resource Protection” as part of its “Resource Quality Assurance Division.”
  • Aging goes to Public Health.
  • Alcohol and Drug Addiction goes to Public Health.

But that’s not all, several independent licensing boards would now be moved under the umbrella of either the Department of Business or Public Health.

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission, an independent agency, instead because part of a division of the Department of Human Resource Development.

The Department of Public Safety is in charge of the Ohio National Guard, and takes over Capitol Square from the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board.

And I’m sure there’s more.  But you get the point.

The agency makes a number of bureaucratic marriages that prior legislatures conspicuous sought to avoid.  For example, the bill strikes out language that required the Division of Financial Institutions, the state agency that regulated the banking industry, be kept independent from the influence of the head of the Department of Commerce (now, under the bill, the Department of Business.)

The idea to merge the Department of Youth Services with the Department of Corrections was kicked around the Statehouse in the 1990s, but was rejected because there’s a philosophical difference between how our juvenile system treats juvenile delinquents versus how our criminal system treats adult criminals.  This would weaken the wall between these diametrically opposing philosophies. 

And how much would these frantic mergers save Ohio?  Well, according to the bill’s supporters, $1 billion a year.  We can’t know for sure because, well, the Republican abolished the legislative office that used to do fiscal analysis of bills in the last rash of Republican government consolidation.  (It was called the Legislative Budget Office.  It was, and I’m not making this up, eliminated to save money.)

But suffice to say, most outside observers question whether these consolidations will really save any serious money at all.  In fact, quite the opposite.

Governor Bob Taft tried consolidation as a means to create savings when he eliminated the Ohio Department of Human Resources and the Ohio Department of Employment Services by merging them together into the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.  Ironically, Adams’ bill takes that behemoth organization and renames it the Department of “Human Resource Development.”  Taft’s creation of ODJFS as not been generally regarded as an effective cost savings tool.  In fact, it turn into quite the ethical mess as one of Taft’s Cabinet officials had to resign over awarding no-bid contracts in facilitating the merger.

Instead of savings by decreasing duplicity, the plan actually created most of its savings when Ohio ended local employment assistance offices and forced everyone to file for unemployment over the phone instead.  That had virtually nothing to do with the act of consolidation, however.

The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which represents a large sector of the lower lever civil service employee who would actually see the largest jobs cuts (I mean, “savings”) opposed a companion bill in the Senate which is the same as House Bill 25 when it was being considered by the State Senate as a GOP alternative to Strickland’s plan to either permit Video Lottery Terminals at Ohio’s horseracing tracks, or a freeze of the final $824 million in planned income tax cuts passed in 2005 with no plan to pay for them.

They estimated that the bill’s promised savings would likely only come from the elimination of over 10,000 state government jobs—roughly a quarter of the State’s workforce.

However, the proponents of these bills aren’t factoring in the initial costs such mergers cost: in relocating personnel into new offices, consolidating filing systems, and bringing IT systems that had operated independently from one another into a single IT system… and the retraining costs along with it.

Guess what plan the incoming House Speaker publicly latched on to as a way to solve Ohio’s budget crisis (caused almost entirely by Republicans passing tax cuts we can’t afford) in addition to his Medicaid cuts?

You guessed it.

Some people never learn.

 
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  • Anonymous

    Did you notice that they did not touch the Ohio Department of Transportation? They’ve got to keep all those political contributors happy like the Burgett family, owners of Kokosing construction and super major GOP donors. Some of those departments will be unsupervised and become political pay offs for Republicans, donors, relatives, friends, etc. If these departments are in the Ohio Constitution or in Ohio Codes, can they be eliminated this easily???????

  • Delco

    A single Director over these behomoth agencies will make it impossible to do the job well. He or she would basically be a figurehead. But then again, public accountability is not the purpose of this bill I guess…

  • Anonymous

    Most of these agencies exist only in the Ohio Revised Code. Yes, yes it can be done this easily. However, it’ll also take a major rewrite of the Ohio Administrative Code as well.

    Still the guy who makes the State letterhead may be the only person in State government with job security…. Oh, no wait, they’ll privatize that to Staples or something.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t get how this saves ANY money. They don’t eliminate any services or government functions. So you combine two agencies into one mega-agency? That will need twice the back office support of the smaller agencies, so I don’t see how they don’t have to end up keeping everyone. And the waste and corruption will just become more widespread in 12,000-person departments.

    If I recall, the bill also puts the Departments of Taxation and Lottery under the same roof, which makes complete sense, because they are so similar.

    Also, liquor control is a division within the Dept of Commerce now, not a cabinet agency. If someone wanted to actually do something useful, they’d combine the Division (which does initial licensing) with the Liquor Commission (which oversees license renewals) and the Investigative Unit at Public Safety (which performs investigations of license premises). While they’r eat it, they’d do away with the stupid state-run liquor store monopoly and let the private sector do its thing.

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  • Jake

    The Department of Transportation is way over manned.

    Why do you need a Director if you are going to make the State more business friendly. Why do you need 12 Deputy Directors @ over $125,000 a year, 88 County Managers @ over $100,000 w/ot a year, transportation managers, project inspectors, asphalt, steel, concrete, soils inspectors, supervisors for 2 employees, admnistrators per building, administrators assistances, ect.

    You could cut the state into thirds or quarters and eliminate 80% of public employees and privatize them, saving the state millions of dollars.

    I’ve talked to some ex state employees who quit the state because they got bored because they had their work done within an hour every day, sat around for the next 7 hours watching the clock to go home.

  • Pitt

    Must be a contractor who wants no one to watch his work.

  • Delco

    Jake- I would looove to know which agencies those are. I haven’t taken more than twenty minutes for lunch since 2004 because we are constantly catching up. Maybe we should be getting rid of crappy supervisors who cannot manage, ’cause certainly there is more than enough work to keep crazy busy.

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  • Fotogirlcb2002

    I would love to know who told you that — things are falling through the cracks —
    the only over manned dept is ALL the supervision !! and Kasich was asked about combining districts BUT didnt do it — he owed to many favors — and just about all of whom came in are retired ( double dippers !! ) you know get a whomping salary and their retirement money and benefits
    we (were) back to the 1983 levels of employeement and last year was the busiest ODOT has ever been
    and since the “I want smaller govt king has come in — they are hiring people like crazy– and making up titles to hire their friends with good salaries–not a one has been a everyday job
    now go on and say the dems did also — NOT thats who sent us back to the 1983 stats — look it up
    Odots money doesnt come out of the general fund —
    if you want to complain –Why dont you investigate how many double dippers there are and what they make

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