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Tinkering With The Coast 

  A special task force charged with saving the state money and restructuring government services has approved a number of recommendations that could change the way coastal activities are carried out in future years. Gov. Bobby Jindal asked the Commission on Streamlining Government to identify $802 million in savings for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2010. The commission must complete its work by Dec. 15 and forward recommendations to lawmakers. However, some ideas could be implemented without legislation. So far, the commission has approved 143 proposals, and many more are anticipated.

  Among the suggestions to be considered by lawmakers are proposals to reduce the number of state employees; cut the state vehicle fleet; outsource printing operations; limit or eliminate special earmarks in the budget; establish new bidding rules for purchasing supplies and others. Some are aimed directly at coastal Louisiana and could impact energy activities and conservation efforts. For instance, it has been proposed that the Department of Natural Resources automate the state's oil and gas permitting and reporting processes. Among other things, that would call for the elimination of 12 positions at district offices around the state and moving the physical processing to Baton Rouge. According to the recommendation, "automation would eliminate the need for initial entry of application information by office personnel, reduce paper management and streamline periodic filings by the regulated community." The change could result in a cost savings of approximately $636,000, thanks to a reduction in the space needed for records storage and a possible decrease in postage and mailing.

  The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries faces several changes. One suggestion involves outsourcing management of invasive plants that clog up waterways. Another would consolidate the various state agencies that conduct field sampling of oysters and mercury testing. More than anything else, coastal protection and restoration has been identified as ripe for change, which should come as a surprise because billions in state and federal monies are being channeled into fighting the encroaching Gulf of Mexico. Citizens can view all of the commission's proposals, formally comment on them and submit streamlining ideas at Comments can also be mailed to the Commission on Streamlining Government, P.O. Box 44481, Baton Rouge, LA 70804. — Alford

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