13 May 2014

Committee action, May 13: HB 341, HB 342, HB 128

HB 341 and HB 342 by Rep. Joe Harrison would rejigger the organization of the executive branch to allow for a Department of Elderly Affairs. He told the House and Governmental Affairs Committee that other bills to combine two departments to allow this one (there is a cap of 20 on these in the Constitution, which these would expand) were hung up, but that he needed to move on these if they were to make it to the voters by the fall. He said it was not an expansion of government, just a reorganization.

Rep. Taylor Barras asked about the new cabinet position and that it would cost $160,000 in salary. Harrison said the present job that would be elevated from the governor’s office to fill this was vacant. Barras asked also whether other allied jobs also would not cost more, but Harrison insisted they were still there in the Division of Administration and could be moved back.

Rep. Mike Danahay asked, what was the need? Harrison claimed most states had their own cabinet department to serve a growing need and could better lobby with the federal government for funds. Danahay said he wasn’t convinced there was an advantage of this, and asked why not put elderly affairs (now in the Division of Administration) under the Department of Health and Hospitals. Harrison replied that he would not want to put anything under DHH because, he alleged, of “ten bad audits.” Danahay then asked why Harrison’s other bills wanted to put the Department of Children and Family Services under DHH. He also wondered by he was trying to combine two larger departments to create a smaller one, and said to him this was an expansion of government.

Rep. Johnny Berthelot asked what would happen with these if the other bills to combine passed. Harrison said he thought these here could be stopped. Rep. Steve Pugh asked whether Harrison thought a special emphasis this way would do a better job of grabbing funds, to which he agreed, and said an example of this was transferring elderly abuse services to DHH which in his opinion meant a reduction in service.

Closing on HB 341, Harrison said let the people on this. The bill failed 3-4, in doing so necessitating Chairman Tim Burns’ vote.

Then regarding HB 342, with the failure of HB 341, that basically mooted it, and Harrison asked that it be voluntarily deferred, which it was.

HB 128 by Rep. Kenny Havard would conduct much more intense legislative oversight of privatization of governmental functions, by approval of large contracts. He insisted it was not anti-privatization and he claimed he was a conservative who favored better-functioning government, and gave an example of the Health and Welfare Committee approval recently of a contract privatizing operations one of the state’s hospital that legislators barely got a chance to review as an example of the bill’s presumed need.

After adoption of a technical amendment, it was approved without objection.

Do you want to close on your bill?
Only if it’s going to pass.

Havard to Danahay who was running the committee in Burns’ absence.

No comments: