Structural Reform: Brown Treads Where Others Have Faltered

A 12 page document has the potential to make significant changes

While Jerry Brown's 2012-2013 budget proposal has grabbed the headlines, another series of proposals has the potential for moving the state in a more efficient direction.

The governor has issued a twelve-page document that advocates reducing the number of state agencies to 10 from the present 12 and eliminating 39 departments, commissions or programs. Some would be folded into existing arrangements, while others would be abolished altogether.

These changes could go a long way toward making California less susceptible to bureaucratic overlap and less vulnerable to the various private interests that seek to penetrate these institutions for their own gains.

Some of Brown's recommendations are substantive, such as merging Caltrans, the DMV, the High-Speed Rail Authority, the CHP, the California Transportation Commission, and the Board of Pilot Commissioners into the Transportation Agency.

Others include the elimination of a handful of the 300 boards and commissions as well as transferring stand alone departments into existing agencies.

Unlike efforts by former governors to trim the edges of California's bureaucratic duplication, the Brown proposal seems thoughtful and purposive.

But will that be enough?

At the end of the day, most of Brown's proposals must be approved by the legislature.

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Until now, that body has resisted sweeping changes because they would alter the status quo, and in some cases terminate appointments conferred by that body or recommended by legislators to the governor.

Relatively few people may have interest in the Salton Sea Restoration Council, one of the panels recommended by Brown for extinction.

But if you're impacted by that part of the state, serving on the council could be a springboard for influence.

And so it goes with the other entities recommended for removal or merger.

It remains to be seen whether Brown will get the cooperation he needs.

If he does, it will represent the most comprehensive reorganization of the executive branch in years, and a good starting point for even more meaningful change down the road.   

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