By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Senate President Pro Temp Del Marsh (R) from Anniston has worked relentlessly for the last year on a plan to save the state millions of dollars by merging and consolidating many of the law enforcement functions of the state. His plan moved closer to reality on Wednesday.
Sen. Marsh’s Senate Bill 108 passed through the Alabama Senate’s Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee with a favorable report on Wednesday and is set for a vote on the Senate floor on Thursday.
SB108, sponsored by Marsh, consolidates and reorganizes the state’s public safety and law enforcement functions and also received a favorable report by the Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee. Marsh said in a written statement that his proposal combines two similar previously announced plans by he and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) into one bill, SB108. SB108 is part of a package of five high priority bills aimed at reducing costs and increasing efficiencies in state government that received a favorable report from the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee on Wednesday.
Sen. Marsh said in a written statement, “Having these bills in position for a floor vote by the third legislative day reiterates our commitment to reducing the size and cost of state government. We have spent a tremendous amount of time studying these issues and identifying ways to operate more efficiently. We will continue to prioritize legislation that will help state government serve the people of Alabama in better, more cost-effective ways.”
Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan said on Facebook, “We can look forward to reconstituting the rural investigation unit that was cut in 2011 due to severe budget reductions.” Prior to 2011 the rural communities in Alabama were served by special investigators who understood rural crimes such as rustling and ATV and farm equipment theft. Proration in 2011 eliminated that unit.
Senator Marsh said, “Public safety is one of the essential functions of government and we will not do anything that will compromise the mission of keeping Alabamians safe. But like many areas of state government, we believe it can be operated in a more efficient, cost-effective way.”
Senator Phil Williams (R) from Rainbow City said, “Unlike what we’re seeing out of politicians in Washington, one of the defining qualities of Senator Marsh and my Senate Republican colleagues is the whole-hearted commitment to reducing the size and cost of state government. This proposal along with others we’ll take up this session solidifies that position and will make anyone who is for leaner, more responsible government proud.”
Gov. Bentley said, “We’re making agencies more efficient while improving public safety. By taking a more coordinated approach, we can focus as many resources as possible on supporting law enforcement officers in the field. We are working together with the Legislature to make this happen. The legislation announced today will help us build on our coordination and make more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”
Marsh said, “We owe it to the taxpayers to move heaven and earth on their behalf to make sure we’re living within our means. We look forward to working with various stakeholders to address any concerns they may have, but the bottom line is we will be moving forward.”
The reorganized Department of Public Safety will include most of the existing Department of Public Safety, the Marine Police Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the law enforcement unit of the Public Service Commission and the Department of Revnue’s enforcement officers.
The reorganized State Bureau of Investigations will include the current Alabama Bureau of Investigations, the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, the current Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board enforcement division, the investigative units of the Alabama Forestry Commission and the Department of Agriculture and Industries.
The Secretary of the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency will also serve as the state’s Homeland Security Advisor.
Gov. Bentley and the Republican leadership in the state legislature have set a goal of identifying $one billion in savings in state government during Bentley’s first term.