Act 910 of 2019
aka: Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019
Act 910 of 2019 was a piece of signature legislation for Governor Asa Hutchinson, who sought to reduce the size of Arkansas state government and the number of agency heads reporting directly to the governor. In state government, an agency designated as a “department” is typically headed by a secretary who is appointed by the governor as part of the cabinet. Many of the changes brought about by Act 910 involved departments becoming “divisions,” such as the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) becoming the Division of Environmental Quality within the new Department of Energy and Environment.
Hutchinson looked to Act 38 of 1971, the last large-scale reorganization of Arkansas state government, which consolidated sixty state government agencies into thirteen. Between 1972 and 2019, the number of cabinet-level departments rose again from thirteen to forty-two. Hutchinson’s stated goal was to reduce those forty-two departments to fifteen, and to organize more than 200 boards and commissions under “umbrella departments.” (Note that the Arkansas Department of Transportation falls outside of this system, as it is under the Highway Commission and is not a cabinet-level department.)
Describing himself as a fiscal conservative, Hutchinson sought to cut costs and streamline state government, beginning on his first day in office in 2015 when he ordered a hiring freeze on all positions in executive branch agencies in order to evaluate vacant positions and the need to fill them. Hutchinson’s proposal for the transformation noted some “pilot projects”—early efforts on the part of the Hutchinson administration to streamline state government, including the merger of the former Department of Rural Services (which became the Rural Development Commission) with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, as well as the absorption of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, both during the 2015 legislative session. In the 2017 legislative session, the Energy Office was placed under the former Department of Environmental Quality (now the Division of Environmental Quality, itself absorbed by the new Department of Energy and the Environment), and the reorganization of the State Embalmers Board, Funeral Directors Board, Cemetery Board, and Burial Association Board into the State Insurance Department.
In December 2016, Governor Hutchinson appointed Amy Fecher (former director of the Arkansas Department of Rural Services) as the chief transformation officer for the new Office of Transformation. The office researched ways to reduce the number of cabinet-level agencies in state government.
During the Ninety-Second Arkansas General Assembly in 2019, House Bill 1763 was introduced, sponsored by Representatives Andy Davis and Matthew J. Shepherd, and Senators Bart Hester and Jim Hendren. The 2,047-page bill was titled “The Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019” and organized Arkansas’s state government into fifteen agencies:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Corrections
- Department of Education
- Department of Energy and Environment
- Department of Finance and Administration
- Department of Health
- Department of Human Services
- Department of the Inspector General
- Department of Labor and Licensing
- Department of the Military
- Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism
- Department of Public Safety
- Department of Transformation and Shared Services
- Department of Veterans Affairs
The bill passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Hutchinson on April 11, 2019. The secretaries of each department were appointed and took office on July 1, 2019. The appointments were largely made from within state government, with many directors and commissioners continuing to serve in their former roles while assuming the title of secretary. A press release from the governor’s office noted that seven of the fifteen appointments (forty-seven percent) were women, a record high for Arkansas state government. These included Wendy Kelley (Department of Corrections), Becky Keogh (Department of Energy and Environment), Cindy Gillespie (Department of Human Services), Elizabeth Thomas (Department of the Inspector General), Stacy Hurst (Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism), Jami Cook (Department of Public Safety), and Amy Fecher (Department of Transformation and Shared Services).
For additional information:
Act 910 of 2019. Arkansas General Assembly http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2019/2019R/Acts/Act910.pdf (accessed October 30, 2019).
Wickline, Michael R. “Agency-Trim Bill Endorsed in Committee.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 14, 2019, pp. 1B–2B.
———. “Governor Convenes State’s New Cabinet.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 9, 2019, pp. 1A, 3A.
———. “Pay Range in Place for State Cabinet’s 15 New Secretaries.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 20, 2019, pp. 1A, 3A.
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated: 10/30/2019