New law would shrink size of state government

Republican state lawmakers hope to end the year with a pair of measures meant to shrink the size of state government: one by shedding useless state committees and the other looking at whether to pitch entire departments.

The Ohio Sunset Review Committee has proposed a list of 13 state committees they say have outlived their useful purpose and should be abolished.

“Generally what we found were ad hoc committees that were established to look at a problem and provide recommendations and probably should have ceased to exist after issuing a report,” said Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp., who sits on the review committee.

Another 36 committees will be kept under the proposed legislation, which passed the House unanimously and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. The sunset review committee is planning to issue a final report on keeping and abolishing more committees before year’s end.

House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, said his party understands the need for the sunset review committee, but has more concern about another bill that could abolish entire state departments.

That bill, Senate Bill 329, passed the Senate on a mostly party-line vote and is now awaiting a vote in the House.

It would basically put expiration dates on 25 cabinet-level state agencies. Each department would have to justify its existence every four years, and lawmakers would decide whether to extend the agency’s life or do nothing and allow it to cease receiving state funding.

Agencies that issue professional licenses would face additional scrutiny to justify the need for the license they require.

The bill was sponsored by Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, who said in a statement after its Senate passage: “It’s often easy for bureaucracy to quietly grow and lose efficiency.”

“A periodic review will go a long way in not only building transparency and trust in government,” he said, “but also making sure we don’t create barriers for Ohioans needing services or seeking employment and business opportunities in our state.”

Coley, who is chair of the Government Oversight and Reform Committee, said he has heard lawmakers question the need for the state school board, or the Development Services Agency after many of its functions were relegated to JobsOhio.

He noted there are four different regulatory agencies involved in gaming, more than one regulating slot machines.

“Some of that kind of stuff, you scratch your head and say, ‘Why don’t we do this differently?’ ” he said.

But Strahorn said lawmakers can create or abolish agencies whenever they want; he expressed concern with making it too easy to shut down entire state agencies for political purposes.

“The notion that we would create a mechanism that potentially would shut down youth services or shut down the department of education, I don’t know that I really want to go down that road,” Strahorn said.

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