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Many misunderstand place, purpose of streamline panel

So, Louisiana’s Commission on Streamlining Government is actually beginning to compile recommendations, which legally are due by Dec. 15. To understand what this will mean for public policy going forward over the next nine months, we must understand the purpose of its existence.

Some have invested too much importance in it. For example, the idea factory member Treasurer John Kennedy has become on it would make one think he’s running for governor in 2011 with this gig as a means of floating trial balloons for the future. This is not a bad thing, but it’s not realistic either to think the CSG was formed solely and only to ferret out novel, never-before-seen and creative ways of making state government more efficient.

At the same time, others have dismissed it without understanding its true importance. Those who say it is an exercise in hot air that seeks to substitute rhetoric for action (or to excuse inaction) in a sense also have misunderstood it by assuming its political value is diversionary. In fact, it is intended to be a complementary political tactic to build support for some inevitable proposals and in the process perhaps find some genuinely new approaches that can be added to that agenda.

This is why observing the role played by the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration in its unfolding is vital to comprehending its impact. Those testifying on the Administration’s behalf just didn’t wake up after the Commission formed and suddenly started to brainstorm on efficiency in their corners of government. The ideas they are pitching have been on the minds of Jindal and/or his key subordinates for some time, many of which challenge the existing bureaucratic system and special and political interests that support it.

Thus, the primary purpose of the Commission is to provide additional legitimacy to these propositions. Many Jindal would be bringing forward for consideration in next year’s legislative session regardless of whether such a body ever had existed. But with it in place, by getting its imprimatur on as many of the things it has discussed as possible, it makes it that more difficult for opponents to battle the forthcoming Jindal agenda. The bonus would be any new ideas Jindal likes being revealed in the process of deliberations, which he can add to that agenda.

Therefore, the valid way to understand the existence and purpose of the Commission is it’s there to increase political support for Jindal’s ideas that would be introduced next year regardless of its existence, maybe to find him new ones to add, and perhaps leading to the discard of some that the process may reveal face too much opposition. Of secondary importance is its place as an incubator of truly unknown stuff. None of this is a bad thing; airing out and vetting all these ideas contributes to the debate around the broader question for which the commission was formed.

As a result, its final decisions as far as recommendations are important only insofar as they reflect a rough estimate of political support for them. Some that get rejected nevertheless will appear in Jindal-sponsored bills next year, while others accepted will not be supported by Jindal and therefore are likely to go nowhere during the next session. Again, knowing that it is an instrument to aid certain ideas of efficiency primarily and secondarily serves as a blank slate for any such idea truly realizes its place and impact in Louisiana public policy-making in the near future.

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