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Ala. governor creates streamlining task force

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Robert Bentley created a task force Thursday to streamline the state's 22 agencies with law enforcement functions and figure out how to cut spending by 10 percent.

Bentley's director of homeland security, Spencer Collier, is serving as chairman of the Integrated State Law Enforcement Task Force, and the other members are the heads of five other state departments that have law enforcement functions.

Bentley said the goal is to reduce staff through attrition rather than layoffs, and find ways to save money without jeopardizing public safety.

"We're not here to lay people off," Bentley said.

The task force is the third to look at the issue since Bentley became governor. In 2011, he appointed a task force headed by Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey that developed ideas for streamlining state government to save money. In April, a legislative group spearheaded by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, laid out a consolidation plan for law enforcement.

The Public Safety Study Group recommended combining many law enforcement functions into the state Department of Public Safety, including the state Conservation Department's marine police and game wardens. It estimated $260 million in savings over 10 years.

Marsh joined Bentley as he signed an executive order creating the task force and said he would support Bentley's efforts by making government efficiency the focus of the Legislature's 2013 session.

Marsh said other governors have had task forces recommend ways to streamline government, but not much has resulted from them. He predicted this time will be different.

"We finally have a Legislature that is committed to an efficient government," he said.

Collier said Bentley's task force is needed because it will get into more nuts and bolts issues than the Ivey or Marsh groups. Bentley directed the task force to identify 10 percent in savings by Oct. 1 and develop a consolidation plan by Dec. 15. That will give him time to prepare bills for the legislative session starting in February 2013.

Collier said one of the first things the task force will look at is why there are several state agencies involved with the safety and insurance coverage of commercial trucks.

Bentley also created an advisory group to work with the task force. It includes legislators and representatives of law enforcement organizations.

This is not Bentley's first consolidation effort. He worked with the Legislature this spring to merge the state Department of Industrial Relations and the Labor Department and to combine the state's industrial recruitment and industrial training programs into the new Department of Commerce.