Governors flex agency reorganization muscles

Governors in two states recently issued executive orders aimed at reorganizing agencies of the executive branch—with different results.

The Vermont House of Representatives on February 5 voted 108-40 to block Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s (R) executive order that would have established a new state law enforcement agency. Scott’s executive order, issued on January 14, would have merged all of the state’s law enforcement divisions under a newly created Agency of Public Safety.

Legislators argued that the proposed agency merger raised concerns about costs and agency independence that would be better addressed through the legislative process.

Vermont legislators previously blocked two of Scott’s executive orders aimed at reorganizing executive agencies. One of these orders—a proposal to merge the Vermont Lottery Commission and the Department of Liquor Control—was later approved via legislation.

In a statement following the House vote, Scott expressed appreciation for lawmakers’ interest in pursuing the reorganization plan through legislation.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) on January 19 issued a similar executive order that would restructure executive branch agencies by merging the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to form a new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). Noem argues that the merger will strengthen agriculture operations in the state while promoting conservation efforts.

The South Dakota State Legislature has the authority to oppose the merger, but no lawmakers had raised objections as of February 5.

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