The Department of Finance and Administration confirms that Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s government transformation plan will install a new layer of supervision over the agencies that oversee alcohol, tobacco, medical marijuana and gambling.
Tobacco Control will join Alcoholic Beverage Control and the state Racing Commission under the Department of Finance Administration July 1 and Steve Goode, currently the head of Tobacco Control, will be an administrator over all those agencies. He’ll remain as head of Tobacco Control.
ABC consists of an administrative and an enforcement division. The administrative side, in addition to overseeing permitting, also oversees regulation of the new medical marijuana industry, both cultivation and retail sales.
Goode, 51, who’s a member of the Faulkner County Quorum Court, owns independent grocery stores in Damascus and Clinton and also is a partner in a meat butchering operation and raises cattle. A Bryant High School graduate, he attended UA Little Rock but begin a career as a grocery store manager before he turned 21.
Goode’s agency drew headlines toward the end of the 2019 legislative session with a last-minute and complex bill that shucked Tobacco Control oversight of cleanliness of stores selling vaping materials. The law had never been enforced. The agency argued that it was a duty unsuited for the agency and more in keeping with a Health Department function. Goode, who went to work for the state in 2015 when Hutchinson became governor, also has drawn criticism for regulating an industry in which he participates as a tobacco retailer.
Goode is slated for a 10 percent raise in his current $98,000 salary with the additional responsibilities.
Hutchinson has reduced the number of independent state agencies to 14, with each headed by a “cabinet-level” secretary. That’s Larry Walther in the case of the Department of Finance and Administration. In time, Hutchinson insists state operations will be more efficient and cost less. Goode was on the “transformation team” for the governor.
Changes ahead here? One prediction might be some consolidation of the administrative and enforcement arms of ABC, headed respectively by Doralee Chandler, a lawyer, and Boyce Hamlet, a veteran law enforcement officer. The Racing Commission’s duties are likely headed to expansion with newly authorized casino gambling. It’s headed by Smokey Campbell, a retired farmer and racing fan with political connections that helped him land the job with the change from Democratic to Republican administrations.
I’m seeking comment from Goode on a couple of points raised here, particularly his work as a tobacco retailer and what efficiencies might be expected by the creation of a new supervisor for the various agencies.
UPDATE: He responded by e-mail:
Consolidation of the administrative and enforcement arms of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is a component of the future plan to increase efficiency agency-wide. As the Director of Arkansas Tobacco Control (ATC), an agency with but one division that serves both functions, I believe our internal structure has fostered an effective working environment by promoting clear communication regarding every task and goal expected from our agency. As the new Administrator for the various agencies, I intend to continue to promote such an environment for not only tobacco, but for alcohol, medical marijuana, and racing alike. Another efficiency I see resulting from this merger is that both ATC and ABC serve and regulate many of the same stakeholders. While this will benefit the citizens of Arkansas involved in these industries by eliminating the need to engage with multiple agencies, it will also benefit the State by eliminating duplicative compliance checks or inspections.
In regards to my work as a tobacco retailer, I believe an in-depth knowledge of the retail industry (tobacco or otherwise) has benefitted our agency a great deal. Knowing the ins and outs of retail has provided me with the tools necessary to engage with our stakeholders and assist other tobacco retailers when issues arise.