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Romney's Reorganization Plan

Gov. Mitt Romney filed two bills May 16 to reorganize state government.  The main proposal, which is more than 600 pages, streamlines a number of state agencies.  The shorter bill is a revised version of his earlier higher education reorganization.  Romney filed these bills under Article 87 of the state Constitution, which allows a governor to send to the Legislature reorganization plans of state government under special rules.  The bills will become law unless rejected by the Legislature within 60 days.  The Legislature may not amend the bills and can only vote to either support or oppose them. 

The bills have not won initial support from legislators and many legislators predicted that they would not pass.  However, there are some provisions of the reorganization bills that may at some point be re-introduced as separate bills. 

Nether bill contains any changes to the collective bargaining law.  It is still possible for Romney to file legislation later that will attempt to roll back employees rights as he tried to do in his proposed FY2004 state budget.

The bill creates a new cabinet-level Secretary of Education who will have oversight over both K-12 and public higher education. The legislation dissolves the Public Nominating Council that advises the governor on appointments to the Board of Education (BOE), the Board of Higher Education (BHE) and the Board of Trustees for the colleges and the University of Massachusetts.  The Secretary of Education will have a seat on both the BOE and BHE.

Below is a summary of key provisions in Romney's proposals.  MTA will continue to study the legislation and post any updates.

Department of Education

  • A newly constituted nine-member Board of Education would consist of the Secretary of Education, Chancellor of Higher Education and seven members appointed by the governor, one of whom would be the Chair of the Student Advisory Council.  (The seat specifically designated for a labor representative under current law is repealed.)
  • The Board of Education would meet "not fewer than six times annually."  (Current law specifies "not fewer than ten times annually.")
  • The Commissioner of Education would be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the governor.  (Current law specifies that the Commissioner is appointed by the Board of Education and serves at its discretion.)
  • The Department of Education Advisory Councils would be eliminated and replaced by "such advisory groups as he (Commissioner) deems necessary to assist in developing educational plans or programs..."  (Under current law, there are seventeen specifically named councils in areas ranging from early childhood and gifted and talented education to racial imbalance and vocational-technical education.)

Higher Education

  • Governor would appoint the Chair of the BHE.  The labor seat would be dropped from the BHE.  The current BHE would be dissolved and the governor would appoint all new members for two years.  They could be reappointed for five terms. 
  • Governor would appoint the Chancellor of Higher Education. (Under current law, the Chancellor is appointed by the BHE.)
  • The BHE would establish "base admission standards and approve program standards for the system." (Currently, the Board of Trustees, with the approval of the BHE, does this.)
  • The BHE would "define tuition and establish tuition ranges."  The proposal would eliminate all sections of the law that include mandates about what variables the BHE must consider when doing this.
  • The BHE would establish a performance measurement system for the colleges that includes "accountability objectives, performance measures, data collection, cost effective use of resources and efficient institutional management."
  • Would abolish the Office of the President of the University of Massachusetts and transfer the monies to the BHE.

Employee Benefits and Rights

  • The Teachers Retirement Board (TRB), Group Insurance Commission (GIC) and Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) would be placed under the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, but "not subject to its control."  (In brief, these agencies would remain independent and retain the same responsibilities as under current law.)
  • The Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Division of Administrative Law Appeals (DALA) are dissolved and all their "functions, duties, authority and jurisdiction" are transferred to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) under the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.
  • A cabinet position of Department of Labor (DOL) under the Executive Office of Economic Affairs (EOEA) is created, with expanded responsibilities in the private sector.
  • The Labor Relations Commission (LRC) and the Board of Conciliation and Arbitration (BCA) would be placed in the Department of Labor under the Executive Office of Economic Affairs (EOEA) but "not subject to the jurisdiction of the EOEA or the Department of Labor."