ANNAPOLIS – Maryland would merge dozens of police agencies, create a new “Bay Cabinet” and revamp the Maryland Stadium Authority under a sweeping set of recommendations unveiled Thursday by a state government restructuring commission.
It was the first time the secretive commission, chaired by former Gov. Marvin Mandel, has discussed specific plans to streamline state government agencies.
The commission — which by Mandel’s own admission has done little to advertise its actions — has examined Maryland’s 50-some independent state agencies since it was created by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in August.
The text of the commission’s draft proposals will be released Monday and the panel will present its recommendations to Ehrlich at its public hearing next Thursday. Ehrlich will receive its final report Dec. 8.
“This is just a draft report, subject to the will of this commission,” Mandel said.
Among the scores of proposals is a recommendation that Ehrlich create a “Bay Coordinator” position to help oversee agencies dealing with the Chesapeake Bay, said O. James Lighthizer, chairman of the commission’s Environmental Programs Subcommittee.
“The essential form of governance regarding the Chesapeake Bay is not broken,” Lighthizer said. “What is needed is new leadership from the governor.”
The Bay Coordinator would preside over a new “Bay Cabinet,” consisting of the departments of Budget and Management, Natural Resources, Environment, Agriculture and others.
Lighthizer’s subcommittee recommended against a merger of the departments of Environment and Natural Resources, a merger that the Ehrlich administration has kept on the table since last year.
Henry Fawell, an Ehrlich spokesman, declined to comment on any specific elements of the government streamlining plan.
“The governor needs time to carefully review each one before commenting and moving forward,” Fawell said.
The environmental proposals agree substantially with recommendations the Chesapeake Bay Foundation made during the commission’s Oct. 23 public hearing.
The Mandel panel’s Law Enforcement Agencies Subcommittee also recommended folding 16 independent police departments into the Department of General Services. The police in question serve agencies ranging from hospitals to Maryland Public Television, and only one of them has more than 11 officers, subcommittee chairman James M. Harkins said.
In addition to those 16 departments, the subcommittee said that all police departments on state college campuses should be consolidated, along with the three police agencies in the Department of Transportation.
The report also said the Maryland Stadium Authority might be merged with the state Interagency Committee on School Construction, to form a new State Construction Management Authority. This would make better use of the expertise the stadium authority has acquired, said Lawrence J. Hogan Sr., chairman of the Independent Agencies Subcommittee.
Other proposals included:
— Making Maryland Public Television into a private, nonprofit corporation.
— Launching a more thorough study of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which could consider whether a business person, rather than an academic, should be in charge.
— Merging several agencies to create a Department of Disabilities and Special Needs.
— Eliminating the Board of Contract Appeals and ceding its authority to the courts.
— Abolishing the Health Claims Administration, due to decreased demand for its services.
The specific suggestions will probably attract more public comment than the commission heard at its last public hearing, Mandel said.
“Some of the things we’ve heard today are going to be a little more controversial,” he said.
Anyone wishing to testify at Thursday’s hearing must contact the commission by noon Tuesday, either by calling 410-260-7338 or by visiting the panel’s web site at www.dbm.state.md.us/efficiency/.