By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Just hours after Alabama Governor Robert Bentley created a task force to increase efficiencies and cooperation between Alabama state law enforcement agencies, Alabama State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston released his own blueprint for public safety.
Senator Marsh said, “Making state government more efficient will be a top legislative priority in the 2013 session and we will be pre-filing legislation to ensure this public safety effort is addressed.” Senator Marsh credited Gov. Bentley for his efforts. “We are pleased that the governor has taken the public safety efficiency study produced by our Initiative to Streamline Government and appointed a task force to begin implementation.”
Sen. Marsh said, “Our Public Safety Study Group has worked tirelessly to develop this blueprint, and we look forward to working with the Governor’s task force to bring the plan to fruition. With this plan, I hope the Governor’s task force has a road map to follow on streamlining these departments and agencies.”
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) said, “As the branch of government charged with appropriating tax money, it is the Legislature’s duty to ensure that state government is operating as efficiently as possible and that taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. Senator Marsh has taken the leading role in inspecting every nook and cranny within state government to find ways we can run it more efficiently and save taxpayer money. What his team has put together in this blueprint is no small feat. I appreciate the hard work that went into developing this plan and I look forward to working with Senator Marsh and Governor Bentley to see it implemented.”
Marsh’s plan is based on recommendations from a nine member Public Safety Study Group that has been meeting for months. Senator Marsh’s written statement said that, “Conservative cost-savings estimates show a potential savings of $260 million over 10 years by consolidating more than 20 agencies with law enforcement or investigative missions down to seven – compared to an average number of five in other states.”
The report identified 21 separate state departments which has a total of 32 distinct law enforcement and investigative missions. Six agencies the group recommended be left alone: the Attorney General’s Office, the individual district attorney offices, Emergency Management, the Securities Commission, the Department of Mental Health, and the Ethics Commission.
Sen. Marsh is proposing merging the other 14 agencies into one Alabama Public Safety Agency. A Secretary of Public Safety appointed by the Governor would head the new agency. The agency would be divided into four departments: the Department of Forensic Sciences, the Department of Investigations, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of Public Safety Training.
The Department of Investigations would be similar to the current Alabama Bureau of Investigations (ABI) and would have a similar function. In addition to the ABI: the State Fire Marshal, the ABC Board’s law enforcement unit, ,the Forestry’s investigative unit, the Agriculture and Industry’s investigative unit, and investigators with the Office of Prosecution Services would all be merged into the Department of Investigations. The Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, the Fusion Center, and the Dignitary Protection Services would all be part of the State Department of Investigations.
Under the Marsh plan, immigration enforcement would be transferred to the Alabama Attorney General‘s Office. Homeland Security’s grants division would be moved to ADECA. The Director of the Department of Investigations will also likely assume the role of state Homeland Security advisor to the Governor.
The Department of Public Safety would be the state’s uniformed law enforcement force. It would include the existing DPS minus the ABI. The Marine Police and Conservation officers from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, all state aviation assets, the State Port Authority’s law enforcement section, the enforcement functions of the Revenue Department, ALDOT, and PSC would be merged into the Highway Patrol’s Motor Carrier Safety Unit.
The Department of Forensic Sciences would remain intact its independence. The Public Safety Training Department would be based at the new trooper academy in Selma and would fulfill the state’s training needs for all of the Department of Public Safety’s missions.