By Jeanne Milliken Bonds
The NC General Assembly is moving at a fast pace.
So, let’s take a look at some “efficiencies” at work. As most of you know by now, I have a Masters in Public Administration from that dreaded liberal arts institution called Carolina (where I took some sketchy classes on the Governor’s list for outlaw … like Sociology of the South) so I give low probability to the application of private sector efficiency in government. It’s just not the same in government but rather than try to convince you with words, I will use examples.
Public Relations efforts are still a little out of whack at the Department of Health and Human Services, which represents 23 percent of the expenditures in our State budget and is a large department charged with very basic human protections. DHHS is struggling with the bathing, grooming and dress habits of its employees. First, the iron fist of no more than two personal items per office (that is a fear tactic so when folks are fired, they clear out quickly) and then a policy requiring bathing, grooming and an outline of a hosts of “what not to wear.” Seriously? I am concerned about the protection of children, adults, deliver of services and the Secretary is Joan Rivers “fashion faux pas.” I should have taken photos of the important folks at the Inaugural Ball ’cause I could do a whole show on what not to wear, if you want to be taken seriously. But all this is much ado about nothing because the “policy” was not “approved” even though every news outlet had it via public records requests. So, now it is not a policy at all. You tell me. Efficiency at work? I think not. PR debacle? I think so. DHHS has important matters to address and spaghetti straps, hemlines and employee grooming aren’t the ones that matter to people in need.
Then, along comes Senate Bill 10 which proposes to fire all the members of the State Utilities Commission, Environmental Management Commission, Coastal Resources Commission, Lottery Commission and Wildlife Resources Commission. It would also abolish several other boards and commissions, including the Charter School Advisory Committee, the Lottery Oversight Commission, the Turnpike Authority and the Board of Correction. My reaction would have been wildly different if the first version of the bill had walked out of Senate Rules where it proposed adjusting a Branch of Government, the Judiciary by “adding” to the Supreme Court. Since I worked there I am protective of the historical relevance and independence of a branch of government and would have really called out the Senators for stepping on the Judiciary. I suppose I can see some “efficiencies” in the bill. Some committees have not been meeting, some language in the statutes is needlessly long, but there is merit and “efficiency” to the careful thought in the detailed memberships of many commissions and staggered terms on many commissions that address the needs of North Carolinians. The jury is still out on this bill. I suspect it will look different in the House. This bill is simply about the winners taking it all and that should not be a shock to anyone. However, I know there are true good government Republicans who will put some more thought into this bill.
I do call into question the halting of additional business court judges for the NC Business Court, a recommendation from a Governor Hunt commission enacted by Chief Justice Mitchell, with bi-partisan support and fundamental to expediting business matters in the Courts, wildly successful and a model of judicial efficiency. Again, I am biased with protection of the Courts and policy matters I worked hard on that were supported by all and have been successful. This court is about as “efficient” as it gets in government.
So, that leaves me with the complicated debate between fiscal responsibility and faith in the federal government vs compassion for people and concern for economic conditions or in legislative-ese: unemployment benefits and medicaid expansion. These bills came rushing in, one in each chamber. It strikes me that the “efficiency” of the human condition caused by illlness and economy is not so easy to reconcile with fiscal responsibility. These bills strike at the heart of government being about people. The debates were passionate but sort of like arguing with your parents as a teen. You keep asking in different ways and they keep saying “no.” More to come on this as it deserves its own commentary.
Jeanne Bonds is a political analyst and an NC SPIN Panelist
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- State Government and Efficiency » Plain Talk Politics | February 7, 2013