As Gov. Pat McCrory wrapped up his 80-minute State of the State address, he tackled what might seem like a humdrum agenda item: reorganizing the state government bureaucracy.
Hundreds of state employees learned they’d soon be getting new bosses – all in the name of government efficiency and saving money – but there aren’t yet many more details.
“I will take additional actions to streamline our operations, not only because they save money, but because they make sense,” McCrory said in the speech.
New cabinet-level agencies overseeing technology and veterans affairs topped the list. Other changes, however, will result in new management for state parks, science museums and for the handling of workers’ compensation claims.
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McCrory wants to put all of the state’s tourist attractions under one umbrella: the Department of Cultural Resources.
The attractions are currently split among two agencies: Cultural Resources runs the N.C. Museum of History, the N.C. Museum of Art and 27 historic sites. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources handles the rest: the N.C. Zoo, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, aquariums and state parks.
DENR Secretary Don van der Vaart and Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz issued a statement saying the move will “improve the opportunity for cost savings to the state and customer service to our guests.”
That’s different than what a study found three years ago.
Legislators commissioned a study of the idea in 2012 but didn’t take action after finding that changes “would not enhance effective management or result in cost savings” and “would likely be detrimental to the sites that were moved.”
The study – conducted by legislative staff – said the two agencies’ missions might not mesh well. “Museums may define their primary mission as research and may not think of themselves as attractions at all,” the report said.
Asked whether any further studies dispute those findings, DENR spokesman Drew Elliott said he’s “not aware” of any.
Other state government functions might also get new management. In his speech, McCrory took aim at the state’s handling of workers’ compensation claims by its employees. He says employee claims are costing the state $150 million a year, and he estimates that 40 percent of those costs “are related to abuse or outright fraud.”
The movement appears aimed at Attorney General Roy Cooper, McCrory’s likely Democratic opponent in the 2016 election. Cooper’s department includes the workers’ compensation section – the lawyers who represent the state whenever a state employee files a claim.
“To take hold of costs and to get people back to work sooner, I am signing and submitting an executive order placing the oversight of workers’ compensation under the Office of State Human Resources,” the governor said.
That shift means State Personnel Director Neal Alexander, a McCrory appointee, will oversee workers’ comp coordinators who are currently spread out among various state agencies.
“There’s no consistency or standardization,” said David Prickett, a spokesman for the personnel office. He added that details of the move “are still in the planning stages.”
A Department of Justice spokeswoman said Cooper hasn’t been informed about any changes involving worker’s comp attorneys there.
McCrory said some of the changes are based on recommendations from NC GEAR, an efficiency study run by the state budget office. NC GEAR’s deputy director, Joe Coletti, declined to comment Friday but said a full report will be released this week.