By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Tuscaloosa News’s Dana Beyerle is reporting that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) expects that his Integrated State Law Enforcement Task Force will send their report to him by Saturday.
Gov Bentley said, “I said I would like them to present to me how each agency could cut by 10 percent,” Bentley said. “I’ll read it and study it and make decisions on it.” ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ talked to inside sources in the Governor’s office who said that Gov. Bentley will study the task force’s report himself in detail before releasing the report to the public or making any recommendations to the legislature.
In June, Alabama Gov. Bentley signed an executive order creating the Integrated State Law Enforcement Task Force, which will look for ways to increase efficiencies in state-level law enforcement agencies.
Gov. Bentley said then, “This is about making sure our agencies are working hand-in-hand with each other. Through better coordination and increased efficiency, I believe we can provide better public safety. These efforts will help us make the best use of the resources we have and will also help us better serve the people of this state.”
The Director of the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, Spencer Collier said “To my knowledge, Governor Bentley is the first Alabama governor to take action of this nature by ordering a comprehensive review of the state’s law enforcement resources and capabilities,” Director Collier said. “We have been given a clear directive to act as good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars by examining the most efficient, effective, and modern ways to protect the citizens of Alabama. I am excited to be a part of this.”
Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston said, “We have no choice but to rethink state government operations in order to maximize taxpayer resources. Our goal is always to provide better, more cost-effective and efficient services to Alabamians, and this plan is a big step in the right direction. I appreciate Governor Bentley’s willingness to champion efforts to streamline state government and look forward to working with Lieutenant Governor Ivey, Speaker Hubbard and members of the Legislature to enact these plans.”
The Director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety Colonel Hugh McCall said, “Governor Bentley can count on the Department of Public Safety to fully support his efforts to ensure efficiency in state government. In these challenging economic times, we all must make sure we maximize resources while protecting public safety. Much can be accomplished when we work together.”
The state of Alabama currently has 22 agencies with law enforcement functions. The Integrated State Law Enforcement Task force is charged with reducing duplication of services and increasing government efficiency. The task force will make recommendations to the Governor on how the state can become more efficient.
Gov. Bentley said though, “Our top priority in any decision that we make will be public safety.”
The task force will include members recommended by the State House and Senate Leadership, the Alabama Sheriffs Association, and the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police. Gov. Bentley will designate a task force member and so will the Director of the Alabama State Personnel Department, Jackie Graham. Also the Integrated State Law Enforcement Task Force will include the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Gunter Guy, Alabama Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Revenue Julie Magee; and the Administrator of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Mac Gipson.
Alabama State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston has 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 had been meeting for months prior to Bentley’s task force. 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 Marsh report identified 21 separate state departments which have a total of 32 distinct law enforcement and investigative missions. Six agencies the group recommended should 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 proposed 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 and keep 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.
At this time we do not know if Bentley’s task force followed the blueprint of the Marsh plan or adopted a new plan based on their own recommendations.