Commentary: Trying to Consolidate State Agencies a Tough Job

Article excerpt

Want to tilt at windmills in the Legislature? Try passing legislation combining state agencies and saving taxpayers money. You have about as much chance as Don Quixote.

Ask State Rep. Lucky Lamons, D-Tulsa.

Last session he introduced House Bill 1666 to consolidate the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. It requires the two agencies' directors to merge them over an 18-month period, allowing time for a smooth transition.

Shy of enough votes to get his bill out of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary, chaired by state Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow, Lamons did not seek a vote on it last session, keeping alive the possibility of bringing it up again in 2006.

To no one's surprise the measure was opposed by the directors of the two agencies during the session and again at an interim meeting where they argued there would be no savings.

Eliminating duplicate or overlapping government responsibilities and saving taxpayer dollars makes sense to most, but not necessarily to agency heads, who quickly circle the wagons in common cause to zealously guard their turf.

A 21-year law enforcement veteran, Lamons is not giving up, saying another effort on HB 1666 will be made next year. He makes a good case for the concept of his lengthy bill, but there may be details and specific points that need work and agreement.

There is no intent to do away with or diminish law enforcement but to eliminate the bureaucracy and duplication of functions, he says.

You cannot find criminal action without narcotics, Lamons said. That is why all over the nation narcotics teams and investigative teams are combined into one agency. When investigating shootings, robberies, homicides or any criminal activity narcotics usually play a part. Duplication of efforts at the two agencies simply wastes money and time.

If Wal-Mart ran their offices like we are running these two state agencies you would have sporting goods on one block, electronics 10 blocks down followed by clothing 10 blocks further, he said. They would have their own separate buildings, separate policies and procedures, separate pay staff and separate ways of doing business. …