ALLEN KERR An idea for government transformation.

I have been making information requests around state government to get an inkling of what might be coning when Gov. Asa Hutchinson announces his ideas for reorganizing state government in the name of efficiency. Others have responded to his call’s for suggestions, such as Insurance Commissioner Allen Kerr, with some serious empire building.

Hutchinson wants to reduce the number of department heads. He’s already said he hopes to combine the Correction and Community Correction Departments. I’ve confirmed some discussions about creating an agency combining Economic Development, Parks and Tourism, Heritage and perhaps other agencies devoted in various ways to luring people to Arkansas. Another idea is a Homeland Security Department, combining State Police, Emergency Management and others.

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The combinations would create new and bigger jobs at the top of combined agencies, though any efficiency, it seems to me, would come only by laying off people who actually deliver services. (See the refusal of Hutchinson to expand Community Correction’s parole and probation officer staff to meet pressing needs, a factor in Director Sheila Sharp’s recent departure.)

Anyway, back to Allen Kerr. In providing a document in response to an FOI request, department spokesman Ryan James emphasized this is Kerr’s own ideas.

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Kerr would make Insurance a “parent” agency — an Arkansas Department of Insurance and Commerce. It would combine agencies that generally fall under the jurisdiction of the legislature’s insurance and commerce committee. It would combine all agencies except the Public Service Commission, which Kerr should remain free-standing. It would include, these agencies, with employees listed:

* Insurance Department: 157
* Burial Association Board: 2
* Board of Embalmers & Funeral Directors: 2
* Bank Department: 69
* Securities Department: 35
* Perpetual Care Cemeteries Employee: 1
* Workers Compensation Commission: 90
* Real Estate Commission: 15
* Fair Housing Commission: 7
* Appraiser Licensing & Certification Board: 4
* Manufactured Home Commission: 3
* Abstractor’s Board of Examiners: 2
* Home Inspector Registration Board: 1

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Kerr said some other agencies could be candidates, with reasons given:

*Contractors Licensing Board: 15
Logical relationship with housing and real estate regulation
* Board of Pharmacy: 8
Following passage of the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Licensure Act; allows a single agency to regulate the delivery of pharmacy benefits from the insurance company to the consumer
* Towing and Recovery Board: 5
Corresponds to AID’s regulation of automobile insurance
* Motor Vehicle Commission: 5
Corresponds to regulation of automobile insurance and experience in combating false and misleading advertising
* Fire Protection Licensing Board: 3
Corresponds to AID’s regulation of property insurance, fire insurance, the Arkansas Rural Risk Underwriting Association (ARRUA), and arson investigation responsibilities
* Board of Architects: 2
 Logical relationship with housing and real estate regulation
* Auctioneers Licensing Board: 1
Logical relationship with real estate regulation

He also said some non-governmental organizations could be a fit — the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace and the All-Payer Claims Database.

Wrote Kerr:

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The Arkansas Insurance Department is in a prime position to be the lead agency in a consolidation of state agencies both from a size and revenue-generation standpoint, and by use of already existing statutory responsibilities. 

Here’s Kerr’s full memo.

Put all these disparate and marginally connected agencies under Allen Kerr? Why? To justify that big palace he wants to build across from the Capitol?