A ROAD MAP TO ALABAMA EFFICIENCY
Given the pressures of the pandemic, state and local government efficiency studies have proliferated with less frequency than in prior years. But as cities, counties and states strive to reexamine their organizational structure, staffing, and oversight in a post-pandemic world, more are likely to be organized in coming months.
A very recent example emerged on November 8 from the Alabama executive branch, with the “Final Report of the Governor’s Study Group on Efficiency in State Government.” The group was launched by Governor Kay Ivey through an executive order she signed on January 17, 2023.
It’s packed full of ideas, but the trickiest part is yet to come: the actual implementation of the generally thoughtful suggestions from the group, which was headed by State Treasurer Young Boozer.
The report’s recommendations fall into two major categories: Ways to deal with recruiting and retaining the state workforce and ways of trimming back state government to reduce duplication, eliminate obsolete government functions, and increase efficiency and accountability. Here are a selection of recommendations:
Transfer the duties of the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention and the duties and responsibilities of the Department of Senior Services into the Alabama Department of Human Resources (which handles human services for the state).
Merge several free-standing government organizations that have responsibility for various historic parks or lands into the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Combine the State Workforce Development Board and the Alabama Workforce Council; create a single state workforce agency and reduce the number of free-standing brick and mortar career centers.
Some of the study group recommendations will be easier to deliver on than others. The merger of small organizations with very similar tasks (like historic parks) will likely be easier to pull off than major reorganizations. Historically, consolidations of major entities get intense pushback from individuals who see their personal responsibilities dwindle and worry that their targeted interests (older people, for instance) will get subsumed by a larger organization tasked with many different problems.
Moreover, we’ve observed in the past that substantial reorganizations can also result in a lot of time and effort spent on administrative changes, followed by a surprisingly lengthy adjustment period as the culture of different entities mix.
We’d give the greatest chance of success to the recommendations that are based on the study group’s call to modernize processes, often based on what they’ve learned from managerial successes in other states. This includes the creation of a new agency to perform the overlapping administrative functions of various occupational licensing boards. It also includes moving away from a clumsy semi-monthly pay period; eliminating paper checks and requiring electronic payment throughout government to help minimize fraud.
Recommendations aimed at workforce improvements also borrow from practices elsewhere. This includes the creation of more equitable overtime payment practices, instituting paid parental leave for employees, allowing agencies to provide tuition reimbursement, allowing higher pay step increases in the case of a promotion to higher job classifications, and generally reexamining the state merit system, application, onboarding and hiring practices and adjusting retirement benefits to better compete with other Alabama public sector employers.
Stay tuned. We plan to come back periodically to see the suggestions that result in immediate action, the ones that provoke initial movement and the ones that ultimately may wither away.
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