(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – They have names like the Landscape Architecture Board, the Nevada Arts Council and the Commission on Mineral Resources, and there are more than 180 of them functioning within Nevada state government.
Gov. Brian Sandoval says it’s time to take a look at these dozens of boards and commissions to determine if they are still needed or if some can be consolidated or eliminated in the name of government efficiency.
In his State of the State address Jan. 24, Sandoval said: “I will work with legislative leadership to introduce a bill that ‘sunsets’ every licensing and advisory board now on the books. More than 180 of these entities require gubernatorial appointments. Under our proposal, boards and commissions will sunset at the end of June 2013, giving us plenty of time to eliminate, consolidate, or improve functions among those that must remain.”
Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval, said in an interview last week that the first objective of the review is to improve state government efficiency. But cost savings could also result if some board operations can be combined, using one staff to provide clerical, legal and other administrative support to multiple panels, he said.
Many of the boards are small organizations that meet infrequently at best. Others serve major functions for the state, from the Gaming Commission to the Board of Medical Examiners.
“First and foremost it is about efficiency and responsive government,” Erquiaga said. “If we have that many boards and commissions, are we really serving constituents well?
“We have 183 of them just on our side,” he said. “There are other commissions we don’t appoint. It’s harder and harder for the attorney general to staff. It’s harder and harder for the administrative assistants and the departments to staff them. So really first it’s about efficiency and responsiveness. The cost savings will follow on.”
Erquiaga said some in the medical community have advocated for the consolidation of the services provided to the many different medical boards, from the State Board of Nursing to the Board of Medical Examiners to the Nevada State Board of Oriental Medicine.
“They each have an executive director and they each have a lawyer and they each have a secretary,” he said. “Couldn’t there be some ‘back of house’ consolidation there if you can’t consolidate the boards?”
Many of the state’s major and important boards, from the Gaming Commission to the Public Utilities Commission to the Colorado River Commission clearly will continue to operate, Erquiaga said.
“There are some others that perhaps might not,” he said.
Appointees to many of the boards are paid a modest stipend for attending a meeting, typically $80, plus travel and expenses.
Sandoval isn’t the first to make such a recommendation. The Nevada SAGE Commission, created by former Gov. Jim Gibbons to recommend efficiencies in state government, suggested a similar review.
One of the recommendations from the Savings and Government Efficiency Commission was to create a statutory panel of lawmakers and administrative staff in part to periodically review if there are duplication of efforts, efficiencies to be achieved and potential elimination of functions for the many state boards.
The commission said in its final report: “The state needs a formal process and structure to review on a rotating basis every 10 years the requirement for, as well as the policies and programs of, those state agencies and commissions not created by the constitution; . . .”
Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association and a member of the SAGE Commission, said the consolidation of some boards could lead to savings in personnel costs with the better use of deputies in the attorney general’s office or with hearing officers.
One example offered up in discussions was consolidating the staffing of the barber and cosmetology-related boards, she said.
“We get so caught up in what the current issues are we don’t take a look at what may have outlived its usefulness,” Vilardo said.
Vilardo said it took a long time for the state to eliminate its selective service panel after there was no longer a draft.
The Legislature has taken note of the issue as well.
The Legislative Commission in May agreed to draft a bill to repeal an old statute creating the state’s Advisory Council on the Metric System.
The seven-member council was created in 1981 when the federal government was moving forward with a program of getting the states to convert to the metric system. Congress in 1975 passed the Metric Conversion Act to plan for the conversion.
That effort was derailed in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan eliminated funding for the conversion effort. The state advisory council, placed under the authority of the Department of Agriculture, has not met since the mid-1980s.