HJR 159: Joint Subcommittee to Study the Operations, Practices, Duties, and Funding of Virginia's Agencies, Boards, Commissions, Councils, and Other Governmental Entities

March 18, 2003

Work Plan

The joint subcommittee began its second year of study with the consideration of an expanded work plan under the leadership of a new chairman, Senator Martin, who had served as acting chairman since November. The subcommittee devoted the rest of its meeting to developing a work plan to address the mandates of HJR 159 to identify duplicative functions and activities of the Commonwealth’s agencies, boards, commissions, councils and other governmental entities and determine whether critical functions are being performed by those bodies as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Timely Governor’s Appointments

At the last meeting of the HJR 159 study in 2002, the subcommittee noted a correlation between the inactivity of collegial bodies (a criterion for review selection) and the failure of several Governors to make appointments to these entities. Members voiced concerns that the Governor could unilaterally reverse the intent of the General Assembly to create an active board by not making appointments. Members of the subcommittee agreed that contingency appointment provisions should be examined to ensure continuity in board membership. At the March 18 meeting, the subcommittee agreed that certain issues should be examined further regarding the timeliness of Governor’s appointments and agreed that input from the Secretary of the Commonwealth should be sought. The subcommittee requested that the Secretary appear at its next meeting to respond to the following questions:

1. Are there sufficient resources for the Governor to make timely appointments? What are the barriers that hinder the appointment process? How has the appointment process been different in the second year? Are there new challenges that need to be addressed?

2. Should reappointments be automatic if the Governor has not made them within a certain time period? Should other appointing authorities be designated in cases where the Governor fails to make appointments?

3. Are there constitutional problems with designating alternative appointing authorities, particularly to policy and supervisory boards in the executive branch?

4. Will the new three-year sunset requirement for all new advisory boards created in the executive branch (HB 2115) solve the problem of the inactive boards?

5. Should the Secretary of the Commonwealth be required to submit a list of all outstanding vacancies filled by the Governor to the General Assembly annually? Currently, § 2.2-405 requires the Secretary to submit an annual list of all vacancies filled by the Governor arising during the year, but not appointments that remain outstanding from prior years. Should other appointing authorities be designated?

Selection of Boards and Commissions for Review

In keeping with the protocol established last year for selecting boards and commissions, staff presented a preliminary list of entities for possible elimination or consolidation. The preliminary list included the following entities:

· Design-Build/Construction Management Review Board
· Advisory Council to Virginia Business-Education Partnership Program
· Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Board
· Interagency Migrant Worker Policy Committee
· Sweet Potato Board
· Board of Forestry
· Timberland Reforestation Board
· Virginia Recycling Markets Development Council
· Charity Food Assistance Advisory Board
· Advisory Board on Rehabilitation Providers
· Advisory Committee on Certified Practices
· Psychological Practices Audit Committee
· Child Day-Care Council
· Board of Social Services
· Child Protective Services Out-of-Family Investigations Advisory Committee
· Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect
· Regional Health Planning Boards
· Interagency Coordinating Council on Housing for the Disabled
· Virginia Industries for the Blind - Charlottesville
· Virginia Industries for the Blind - Richmond
· Board for the Blind and Vision Impaired
· Statewide Rehabilitation Council for the Blind

During the presentation, staff also noted the existence of a large number of additional boards in the disability services area and suggested that an in-depth review of this area should be considered. Subcommittee members concurred that communication with the disability community should be initiated first to solicit ideas about the restructuring of the disability services area and directed JLARC to bring a detailed plan with options to review at the next meeting.

Definition of Collegial Body

The subcommittee considered a proposal initiated by staff to include a definition of “collegial body” in the Code of Virginia. Although the term is used throughout the Code, it is not widely understood by members or the public. Most states do not use or define this term in their state codes. Florida is the one exception. It has defined the term to mean a governmental entity marked by power or authority in each of a number of colleagues. The subcommittee directed staff to draft legislation for the next meeting to adapt the Florida definition to Virginia’s boards and commissions and to specifically address nonvoting ex-officio members who serve on Virginia’s collegial bodies.

Compensation and Reimbursement of Expenses

The subcommittee considered adding to the work plan the examination of the entitlement of collegial body members to compensation and reimbursement of expenses. A JLARC survey conducted last year of collegial body staff showed variation in the interpretation of the statutes that authorize and prohibit compensation and reimbursement to collegial body members. Section 2.2-2813 provides that members of collegial bodies at the state level are entitled to compensation and reimbursement for their expenses; however, many of the enabling statutes creating the collegial bodies have conflicting provisions, which give rise to a number of statutory construction questions. The subcommittee decided to ask the Attorney General for an opinion to sort out the law in this area and to specifically address the following questions:

1. Do the more specific provisions in the enabling statute always govern?

2. What is the interpretation if the enabling legislation is silent?

3. What is the interpretation if the enabling legislation addresses only expenses?

4. Does the last-in-time rule apply in determining whether the general compensation statute or the enabling statute governs?

Agency Reporting Requirements

The subcommittee considered a work plan proposal to examine reporting requirements for state agencies to determine whether the reports are outdated and unnecessary and whether another publication format (e.g., web posting) would be more suitable to reduce cost and increase accessibility. The subcommittee agreed to survey state agencies to determine the current ongoing reporting requirements, the reasons for the reports, and whether the reporting requirements need to be modified, repealed, or consolidated.

Agency Performance Measures

Staff reviewed historical information pertaining to agency performance measures. Measuring performance has become a major initiative at the federal level. Bond rating agencies take performance measurement into account, and measuring performance is important for Virginia to maintain its AAA bond rating. However, a 2002 report by the Auditor of Public Accounts revealed that some state agencies have been delinquent in reporting their performance measures. JLARC staff also questioned the utility and selection of some of the current agency performance measurements. The subcommittee agreed to defer the review of agency performance measures to the Council on Virginia’s Future. The council was established during the 2003 Session to advise the Governor and the General Assembly on implementing the Roadmap for Virginia’s Future, which includes instituting a planning and performance management system.

Dormant Special Fund Accounts

The subcommittee considered as an addition to its work plan a review of dormant special funds. Many special funds are currently inactive, but were created through legislation with the understanding that funding would be available in the future. Even though these accounts maintain zero balances, they remain on the books of Comptroller and in the Code. The subcommittee approved the following multi-faceted approach in obtaining a complete inventory of dormant accounts and examining recommendations for the next meeting:

1. Invite the Comptroller and Auditor of Public Accounts to appear before the subcommittee.

2. Conduct an inventory of zero- or low-balance accounts.

3. Identify legislation that established the accounts.

4. Survey agencies on their administration of dormant accounts.

5. Discuss the feasibility of a sunset for inactive accounts after a period of time.

Next Meeting

The subcommittee has scheduled its next meeting for May 20, 2003, at 1:00 p.m. in House Room C of the General Assembly Building in Richmond.


The Hon. Stephen H. Martin

For information, contact:

Ginny Edwards
Division of Legislative Services

Website: http://dls.state.va.us/hjr159.htm


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