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S.56

Introduced by   Senator Lyons of Chittenden District and Senator Bartlett of Lamoille District

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Agency of natural resources; restructuring

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to:  (1) establish goals, principles, and procedural requirements for restructuring the agency of natural resources; (2) authorize the secretary of natural resources to restructure the agency based upon these goals, principles, and procedural requirements; and (3) create a legislative oversight committee to oversee the restructuring process.

AN ACT RELATING TO RESTRUCTURING THE AGENCY OF NATURAL RESOURCES

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  INTENT AND PURPOSE

(a)  It is the intent of the general assembly that the agency of natural resources be restructured so that its functions are consolidated in a manner which:

(1)  provides a focus on customer service;

(2)  provides services in a comprehensive and coherent way; and

(3)  allocates public resources efficiently and produces the best possible outcomes. 

(b)  It is further the intent of the general assembly that the process of restructuring the agency of natural resources:

(1)  reflects the policy and budgetary priorities of the general assembly; and

(2)  should not compromise the services which the agency provides.

Sec. 2.  FINDINGS

The general assembly finds:

(1)  The agency of natural resources impacts the lives of all Vermonters directly and indirectly by the functions it is charged with carrying out.

(2)  However, the current structure of the agency of natural resources:

(A)  poses barriers to systematically providing comprehensive service to customers which interact with the agency;

(B)  sometimes fosters duplication of functions which may hinder the protection of the environment and appropriate development in the state; and

(C)  does not promote the most effective and efficient allocation of financial and staff resources.

Sec. 3.  GOALS AND PRINCIPLES

(a)  The agency of natural resources shall be restructured in a manner designed to achieve the following goals.  The agency shall:

(1)  provide to customers services which are comprehensive, integrated, easy to access, and sensitive to their diverse needs.

(2)  ensure the efficient and effective allocation of financial and staff resources.

(3)  develop and utilize strong partnerships with customers of the agency.

(b)  The following principles shall guide the agency of natural resources:

(1)  The agency should be designed to support a comprehensive approach to serving customers of the agency and to ensure the coordination of services when multiple interrelated needs exist.

(2)  To the extent possible and when appropriate, customers of the agency should be able to meet their goals by means of a single, uniform process.

(c)  The following principles shall guide the restructuring of the agency of natural resources:

(1)  Individuals served by the agency should be engaged in restructuring activities to ensure the interests of consumers are understood and addressed.

(2)  Ongoing and broad public input should be solicited to result in a restructured agency which is most effective and responsive.

(3)  The administrative costs of the agency should be as minimal as necessary to support the efficient provision of services.

Sec. 4.  TIMELINE AND PROCESS

The secretary shall engage in the following process as part of the restructuring of the agency:

(1)  The secretary shall:

(A)  Collaborate with agency staff, customers, advocacy groups, other state agencies, municipalities, and other stakeholders in order to receive input on organizational models and design of the agency.  This process may include focus groups, public meetings, newsletters, surveys, and the use of a website and shall continue through December 2005.

(B)  Collaborate with agency staff, customers, advocacy groups, other state agencies, municipalities, and other stakeholders to determine specific accountability indicators needed to measure the success and performance of agency restructuring.

(C)  Examine areas where consultation may be needed, such as information technology design consultation, federal cost allocation consultation, and organizational development consultation.

(D)  Convene 12 regional advisory groups consisting of representatives of advocacy groups and customers interested in the restructuring of the agency. 

(E)  Develop and implement staff development programs necessary to assist the agency staff to carry out their responsibilities in the restructured agency.

(2)  A statewide advisory group is created to advise the secretary on the design of the restructured agency.  It shall consist of no more than 20 members, one designated by each of the regional advisory groups, two designated by the Vermont State Employees’ Association, Inc. and the remaining members to be designated by the secretary in order to achieve a broad representation of interests.  Appointments shall be made no later than September 15, 2005 and shall be for terms of one year.  Members of the advisory group not receiving compensation for service on the advisory group from another source are entitled to compensation under section 1010 of Title 32.  

(3)  Beginning October 1, 2005, the secretary shall examine functions such as administrative support, supervision, and space requirements necessary to establish a customer-friendly agency.

(4)  On or before January 15, 2006, the secretary shall prepare and present to the legislative oversight committee on natural resources restructuring established in Sec. 5 of this act:

(A)  a report containing initial recommendations for restructuring the agency;

(B)  draft legislation necessary to conform existing statutes;

(C)  a report on the budgetary impacts and transitional costs of restructuring;

(D)  a report on the structure and membership of the regional and statewide advisory groups and how they were formed; and

(E)  recommendations for improving coordination of functions shared, or which overlap, with other state agencies and units of local government.

Sec. 5.  THE LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE ON NATURAL

RESOURCES RESTRUCTURING

(a)  There is created the legislative oversight committee on natural resources restructuring to oversee the restructuring of the agency of natural resources.  The committee shall be composed of four members from the house of representatives to be appointed by the speaker of the house, not all from the same party, and four members from the senate to be appointed by the committee on committees, not all from the same party.  Initial appointments shall be made by July 1, 2005.

(b)  The committee shall review whether agency restructuring is achieving the goals of this act effectively, efficiently, and with satisfaction.  The committee shall specifically:

(1)  solicit input from individuals served by the agency;

(2)  monitor the restructuring process and timeline; and

(3)  measure the efforts of the agency against the goals and principles described in this act.

(c)  The committee may meet up to six times per year while the general assembly is not in session to perform its functions under this section.

(d)  The secretary of the agency of natural resources shall report to the committee as required by the committee.

(e)  Members of the committee shall be entitled to compensation and reimbursement for expenses under section 406 of Title 2.

(f)  The committee may prepare and propose draft legislation which amends the Vermont Statutes Annotated to conform to the restructuring of the agency.

Sec. 6.  RESTRUCTURING; AUTHORIZATION

After filing the report required in Sec. 4(4)(A) of this act, the secretary of  natural resources shall have the authority to restructure the agency of natural resources, including the authority to make organizational changes, according to the goals, principles, and processes set forth in this act.  For the purposes of this act:

(1)  The secretary may transfer appropriations within the agency in order to carry out the purposes of this act, provided that the total amount appropriated to the agency shall remain the same.  The secretary shall not transfer an appropriation without the approval of the joint fiscal committee.  Prior to transferring an appropriation, the secretary shall submit a written proposal for the transfer to the legislative oversight committee on natural resources restructuring and the joint fiscal committee.  The legislative oversight committee shall have up to 30 days to review the proposal and advise and provide its recommendation thereon to the joint fiscal committee.  The joint fiscal committee shall meet within 45 days of the date of its receipt of the proposal to review and act upon the proposal.  However, the joint fiscal committee shall not act upon the proposal until it receives a recommendation from the legislative oversight committee or after the passage of 30 days from the date of its receipt of the proposal.  If the joint fiscal committee fails to meet within its 45-day period for review, or meets but fails to act upon the proposal, the transfer shall be deemed approved by the joint fiscal committee, and the secretary may implement the transfer. 

(2)  The secretary may transfer or reallocate personnel, functions, and programs consistent with this act, subject to personnel laws, rules, and contracts.  The secretary shall identify personnel laws, rules, and contracts which unreasonably restrict the agency’s ability to meet the goals and principles set forth in this act.

(3)  The secretary may use pilot programs or action research initiatives to facilitate the development of agency protocols.

Sec. 7.  STRATEGIC PLAN

On or before January 15, 2006, the secretary shall prepare a strategic plan which shall be updated biannually and presented to the general assembly and to members of the house and senate committees on natural resources and energy.  The strategic plan shall set and clarify goals, shall describe the process for engagement of agency staff, customers, advocacy groups, advisory groups, and other affected agencies, shall provide an ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of the plan and shall establish and describe milestones for development of the plan. 

Sec. 8.  APPLICATION

Nothing in this act, nor any action taken pursuant to this act, shall affect the validity of agency of natural resources rules in effect, assets owned, or contracts or other agreements entered into by the agency.  Rules in effect on the effective date of this act shall remain in effect until amended or repealed by the secretary.

Sec. 9.  SUNSET

Sec. 4 (1)(D) and (2) (advisory groups), Sec. 5 (legislative oversight committee on natural resources restructuring), and Sec. 6 (restructuring authorization) of this act shall expire on July 1, 2008.

Sec. 10.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect upon passage.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us