Expect House Bill 1188, authored by Rep. Rich McClain, R-Logansport, and awaiting a hearing in the new Committee on Government and Regulatory Reform, to provoke a lot of questions and controversy.
In fact, the measure already has caused some panic among assorted business, professional, trade and local government interests.
McClain's measure, which should receive a favorable reception in the new panel chaired by red-tape-busting Rep. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, would place a one-year moratorium on the operation of all-yes, all-statutorily created boards, commissions, committees and other similar entities, beginning July 1, 2005.
At the conclusion of the moratorium, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, would make recommendations to the Legislature concerning continuation, combination, restructuring or repeal of each of the boards and commissions, seeking to cut more than 300 entities by about one-third.
The McClain moratorium, as drafted, would mean absolutely no receipt or spending of any state funds by any covered entity; they could not meet or take official action such as promulgating regulations; and they could not hire or contract for services.
Exceptions to the moratorium, on a case-by-case basis, could be authorized by the governor, Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton, R-Columbus, or Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.
As written, exemptions may be authorized for the following reasons: (1) to avoid jeopardizing public health or safety; (2) a federal mandate or other federal requirement necessitates the continued operation; (3) a constitutional right to appeal a decision of state or local government mandates the operation; or, (4) operation of the panel during the moratorium period "is critical for the efficient and orderly conduct of state or local government."
This legislation has been lauded as well-intentioned, but many questions have been raised about its operation.
While it may be easy to get along without or dissolve the Commission on the Social Status of Black Males, placing a one-size-fits-all moratorium on the panel listed directly above it in HB 1188, the Small Business Development Corp., might be more problematic.
Also included would be the activities of the three panels that regulate legalized gambling: the Indiana Gaming Commission, the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, and the Indiana State Lottery Commission. Also, all the environmental boards and commissions, every entity dealing with economic development, and even the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission would be included.
While certain exemptions may be obtained, look for lots of questions to be raised about just how "blanket" they may be. The legislation provides for a gubernatorial pardon of sorts-a "full or partial exemption" imposed by executive order-and would seem to offer some wiggle room here to keep certain boards, commissions or agencies running. (Even some such as the Department of Administration, which handles all state procurement, fall under the freeze on activity.)
The latitude, however, that allows critical state functions to continue also opens the Daniels administration to potential criticism for playing favorites among industries and entities. The bottom line is that this legislation is perhaps as farreaching as any in decades and gives the governor an enormous degree of power in reshaping state government-just as he has promised.
Sen. Murray Clark, R-Indianapolis, also authors SB 625, which terminates most statutory boards and commissions, among other entities, on July 1, 2006. He would temporarily reconstitute the Government Efficiency Study Commission and direct it to recommend to the governor and Legislature the advisability of continuing or modifying an entity that would otherwise expire.
SB 625, which awaits consideration by the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and Interstate Cooperation, would also permit the governor, by executive order, to extend the life of an entity based on the efficiency panel recommendation.
Obviously, the devil will be in the details.
Watch for questions about how blanket exemptions might work, whether the Governor's Office would be overwhelmed with requests, and what would happen to many of the state and local board and commission employees during the moratorium.
Feigenbaum publishes Indiana Legislative Insight. His column appears weekly while the Indiana General Assembly is in session. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.