New spending plan may eliminate the Massachusetts Public Safety Department

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BOSTON (SHNS) – Along with a $40.5 billion spending plan, Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday filed legislation shaking up state government’s organization chart, eliminating the Department of Public Safety, and creating a new office to take over some of its functions.

The reorganization plan establishes an Office of Public Safety and Inspections to be housed within the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development’s Division of Professional Licensure. The Department of Fire Services would assume the department’s fire-related functions and the new office would take responsibility for all other responsibilities.

The current Department of Public Safety falls under the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. Under Baker’s plan the fire services department would remain under that secretariat while the Department of Public Safety’s other functions would shift to the housing and economic development secretariat.

Baker filed his plan under the authority of Article 87 of the state Constitution. Under Article 87, executive branch reorganizations require a legislative hearing within 30 days of filing, and must receive an up-or-down vote from the Legislature, without amendment, within 60 days or the action takes effect.

The plan must comply with any conditions the Legislature has adopted “regarding the civil service status, seniority, retirement and other rights of any employee to be affected by such plan.”

Former Gov. Deval Patrick used his Article 87 powers to streamline the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, to reorganize the state’s education bureaucracy, and to reorganize his Cabinet structure.

The Department of Public Safety is a regulatory, licensing and inspection agency tasked with oversight of the state’s elevator inspections, amusement ride inspections, construction-related permitting, the sanctioning of boxing and mixed martial arts events, and more.

The reorganization “will enable the Commonwealth to consolidate licensing functions currently split across several secretariats, thereby increasing efficiencies, eliminating redundancies, and improving customer service by creating one-stop shopping for the vast majority of license approvals,” Baker wrote in a letter that accompanied his bill. “It should also save the Commonwealth approximately $800,000 in FY2018.”

Baker’s bill would also make technical changes to the laws governing the department, and would “change the distribution of agencies under the undersecretaries within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to more closely align with their areas of expertise,” Baker wrote.

The Department of Public Safety has been without a permanent leader since Oct. 31, when former commissioner Matt Carlin resigned less than 18 months after taking the job.

The House on Thursday afternoon referred the governor’s bill (HD 3749) to the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.

Copyright 2017 State House News Service