Official says mandating strategic planning crosses line

Gov. Kenny Guinn's top policy adviser Wednesday protested a legislative audit recommendation she made clear would push the Legislature's nose too far into the executive branch's tent.

The discussion followed presentation of the legislative audit of strategic planning efforts in Nevada, which concluded by proposing legislation that would mandate all state agencies to prepare comprehensive strategic plans and "fully implement" them in all decision making.

"Planning is a good thing," policy adviser Denice Miller told the audit subcommittee. "The method of planning, however, should not be mandated. Fundamentally, strategic planning is a management tool," she said.

And that, she said, is the governor's function, not the Legislature's.

The proposal is counter to efforts the governor began during the 1999 Legislature to reduce the influence the Legislature has developed over day-to-day operations in executive branch agencies. Agency heads have complained quietly that they are required to get legislative approval for far too much.

Guinn has urged lawmakers to set policy and goals for a program, then give him the power to make the decisions that will get the job done without clearing every detail with the Legislature or Interim Finance Committee.

Subcommittee member John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, agreed with other members to request a bill draft but "with reservations" and a promise to debate whether it was a bad idea during the 2001 session.

Marvel, too, raised the question of whether lawmakers were stepping too far into the executive branch's business: "Don't we have to be careful we don't get involved in separation of powers?"

Auditor Gary Crews said he believes the recommendation is justified because taxpayers are demanding more and more that government manage and spend responsibly, delivering better service for less money. He said previous planning efforts have too often been shelved and ignored. He described state planning efforts as fragmented.

Crews said the required strategic plans would not be "tied so tight" that they restrict the governor and his agency heads.

"We're not crossing over separation of powers," he said. "This just provides a framework.

"We spend $4 billion a year and we've got no idea where we're going," he said.

Miller argued it would also be a bad idea to put planning requirements in the law because the next election could completely change the direction the state wants to take on some issues. She said one governor can't bind his successors in office any more than one legislature can bind the next to a set of policies.

She said the governor's fundamental review of state government is already taking up some of those planning issues and that the Legislature shouldn't try to impose another set of rules on that process.

Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, agreed with Marvel that he wants to see what that fundamental review process produces before deciding.

The subcommittee voted to request the bill draft and Chairman Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, said the issue could be debated during the 2001 session after legislators get a good look at what the governor's review comes up with.


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