Don't delay Cabinet reform
Five weeks have passed since the state Senate approved a Department of Administration bill, and sent it to the House for its consideration. At this point, the bill appears to be the single best chance for improving accountability and efficiency in state government this year. Now that the House has finished its work on pension reform, it should take up this essential reorganization proposal.
The DOA bill should not be dead on arrival again this year.
The House repeatedly has passed legislation in previous sessions to create a Department of Administration that would assume responsibilities for human resources, procurement, property and fleet management, and information technology.
Those are all executive-type functions that should be handled by a Cabinet agency under the governor. The new department would supplant the State Budget and Control Board, a mixture of statewide elected officials and legislators that is anomalous in the nation. It's past time to jettison the B&C Board.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell has said he is committed to advancing the DOA bill this year, but reserves the right for the House to study it and make necessary changes. Fair enough. Given the House's experience with DOA legislation, it should be able to proceed in a timely manner.
It's highly unlikely that the House will agree with every element of the Senate bill. And most of those sticking points presumably can be worked out in conference committee -- assuming that the DOA bill doesn't languish in the House as it did last year in the Senate.
In 2011, the Senate didn't get to work on the bill in earnest until the final few days of the session, and by then it was too late to complete it. Remarkably, senators took up the legislation soon after they returned this year, and produced the bill now before the House.
The pension reform proposal reached by the House last week was a major advance on resolving a long-standing financial liability facing the state. The House should add to its reform record this year with legislation to create the Department of Administration and, if possible, to reform the state highway commission.
Given that the Senate already has advanced legislation with which the House ought to be thoroughly familiar, the first focus should be on the DOA reform to provide more efficient and more accountable governance.
As Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, says, "We should get on with it and pass it."
The Budget and Control Board is emblematic of much of what is wrong with South Carolina government. The Legislature should take the opportunity to replace that sprawling agency with a streamlined Cabinet model.