Ironic – A state report saying that the state writes too many reports

From the Austin American Statesman, (October 29, 2007 – 10:49 a.m. Copyright 2007, The Associated Press, site accessed 10/30/07) “State report says Texas has too many reports

(I got the link off the OpinionJournal‘s Best of Web for today.)

The report comes from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, who I guess would be a good group to do this report since “The Library and Archives Commission runs the state’s publications depository system, which warehouses untold tons of paper reports and keeps an electronic records and information locator to search and sort that data.” A lot of bureaucrats and middle-managers will try to create more work for themselves to justify their jobs, but that’s apparently not going on here. (Although it is telling that state records administrator Michael Heskett says the report just issues shouldn’t be one of the ones eliminated.)

I also notice the report took 18 months to complete and was 668 pages long. Sounds like a bit much, but maybe they were just trying to be thorough?

Some highlights from the article:

In the past, the state regularly compiled a list of about 400 reports that agencies were required by the Legislature to produce. But the commission found more than 1,600, and state records administrator Michael Heskett is pretty sure his team hasn’t found them all.

Heskett’s initial findings indicate more than 400 report requirements are obsolete, duplicative or not needed as frequently as currently required.

“At first, we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of reporting requirements,” Heskett said.

In a typical legislative session, lawmakers call for about a dozen new reports to meet the requirements for a new law. Another 20 or so reports are attached to appropriations bills as a way of making sure allocated money is properly spent.

Unless these reports are repealed by the Legislature, agencies are required to prepare them, even if the need for the report — or the agency — no longer exists.

Heskett’s team found was a huge backlog of reporting requirements, the volume of which has increased in the past 20 years with added emphasis on transparency and open records in state government.

The Library and Archives Commission has only just begun assessing the report requirements one by one, which Heskett expects will take at least another year.

Let’s just hope that they come up with a list of reports to be eliminated and that those reports actually do get eliminated!

And no, I don’t live in Texas, so the whole affair is really none of my business. But I hope other states have similare commissions examining things like this. And I still think it would be a good idea for all laws and requirement to have sunset provisions, so someone somewhere has to review the requirements every so often and (hopefully) axe those things which no longer make sense.

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