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Rep. M.J. "Mert" Smiley of Port Vincent has been working to rid the state of inactive boards and commissions for five years, and in that time he's authored bills that have eliminated 100 of them.
But despite that continuing effort, Louisiana still has 547 state boards and commissions -- far more than larger states like Texas and Florida. For that matter, the current tally is more than the 513 boards that Louisiana had in 2005 when the Louisiana Legislature adopted Rep. Smiley's bill that eliminated about two dozen boards and commissions, including the State Licensing Board for Locksmiths and the Council for the Development of Spanish.
State officials continue to create new panels, outpacing efforts to cull old ones.
House Bill 1372 seeks to jettison 19 boards and commissions, and the Senate should follow the House's lead and pass this legislation. Some of the panels targeted have not submitted a report to the legislative auditor for three consecutive years -- a sign that they are not active.
The bill gets rid of some commissions that, by law, have already stopped meeting. For example, the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Commission stopped meeting at the end of 2003, and the Interagency Task Force on Health Literacy stopped meeting on Sept. 1, 2006. Repealing the statutory provisions for these commissions is a legislative housekeeping measure that should be given attention.
In other instances, the bill assigns the responsibilities of boards to other agencies. For example, the Medical Disclosure Panel determines the risks associated with medical procedures and establishes a list that must be disclosed to patients. HB 1372 would get rid of that panel but would require the secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals to take on those duties.
That's a smarter approach. A task might be worth doing, but that doesn't necessarily mean a task force should be established to do it. The more likely reason for the proliferation of committees, councils and boards is that it gives elected officials an opportunity appoint people to something that sounds prestigious.
The governor appoints most of these boards, and Rep. Smiley says that Gov. Jindal has indicated support for his measure and has asked if the number of boards and commissions could be cut in half.
That's the right question to ask. If Gov. Jindal gets behind efforts to pare down Louisiana's bloated inventory of boards and commissions, maybe the Legislature won't have to go through what has become an annual chore.
-- The Times-Picayune
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