by Max Brantley
It has now reported and the full volume is here. It claims unspecified savings could be realized from its recommendations, which included new hires in some areas of the office and significantly expanded police powers related to elections. Some points noted in a quick perusal:
* HIRE MORE PEOPLE: The committee concluded the elections division is understaffed.
* CONSULTANT CONTRACTS: The committee questioned a $52,000-a-month contract with the Information Network of Arkansas, which provides computer systems for state government and then profits from user fees on a variety of services. The committee suggested the fee was high given the fees the Network is able to generate from users.
* OVERSTAFFING: The committee suggested the education and communications effort could get by with two or three fewer staffers for photography and Capitol tours, but it said the communications effort needs better definition of responsibilities and said a director with policy power should be put in charge, preferably a media veteran. There should also be a deputy director.
* BUILDING AND GROUNDS: Eliminate a parking lot employee by going to gated parking lots. Outsource janitorial services. Outsource more maintenance. Cut jobs by merging the building and grounds department with the mechanical and electrical departments. Close the Capitol gift shop (but perhaps continue on-line sales.)
* STATE CAPITOL POLICE: Worth quoting:
This appears to be a top-heavy organization in that there does not seem to be any lower ranking officers. Apparently officers are promoted to corporal quickly and we understand that the pay scale may be out of line with comparable law enforcement in city, county and state government. Much of this work appears to be security oriented rather than law enforcement and can be possibly performed with less cost than is currently being incurred.
* BROADENED POWERS FOR ELECTIONS: In both the elections and police sections, the report raises the possibility — based on a need demonstrated by "anecdotal evidence" — of expanding the office's powers to investigate election fraud, including a "rapid response" team led by a lawyer. The secretary of state dashing around the state investigating elections, a power now in the hands of police and prosecutors? Controversial, to put it mildly.
* CAPITOL CAFETERIA AND CAPITOL HILL BUILDING: Both should be more closely studied with full accounting. The cafeteria might be seen as en employee benefit, but the cost should be known. The building the secretary of state oversees for use by some legislators should be reviewed for continued operation as is, outsourcing of management or closure or alternate use.
The report said the recommendations could produce significant cost savings but makes no estimate. It then reaches out to say that there are potential savings throughout state government by elimination of "redundancies." The report closes with a brief recommendation that would occupy, oh, about a decade worth of legislative sessions, plus likely mean changes in the Arkansas Constitution:
To centralize these functions, the process of management would have to be structured to avoid the politics inherent in government. This would require a combined effort of the governor, other constitutional officers, statewide agencies and the legislature working together.
Secretary of State Martin's response: He's still reading and analyzing.