Governor Lynch today issued the following statement on his decision to allow Senate Bill 81 to become law without his signature. The legislation includes important provisions to allow for better management of personnel across state agencies. However, it also includes a provision restricting the ability of the Governor and Council to continue the service of department heads after the expiration of their terms:
"Senate Bill 81 provides authority to state commissioners to transfer and reassign personnel within their departments and agencies in order to assure that programs and duties will be implemented as effectively as possible, even in challenging economic times. The bill also authorizes commissioners to reassign and delegate authority to administer programs and services within a department office or bureau. I fully support these common sense provisions. In the face of budget reductions, we must ensure department heads have the tools they need to effectively manage their programs and duties.
"SB 81 also includes a provision limiting the ability of the governor to continue the service of department heads and commissioners more than 6 months after the expiration of their term. Current law allows a governor to extend the service of a department head or commissioner up until the end of the governor's term in office. I cannot endorse this provision because it will undercut the present Governor and Executive Council process, the ability of governors to effectively manage, and because it could end up burdening taxpayers with additional and unnecessary costs.
"For example, several years ago the legislature considered a bill that would have reduced the number of liquor commissioners from three to one. New Hampshire trial courts have ruled that a person appointed to a fixed term and confirmed to that office by the Executive Council is entitled to the full salary for that length of that term, even if the position is eliminated. During the liquor commission debate, I deferred making a new appointment and kept the existing commissioner in holdover. If this law had been effect, I would have likely made an appointment. And if the legislature had then decided to reduce the number of liquor commissioners, the taxpayers would have paid several years' worth of salary to someone who was no longer working.
"That is just one example of the potential unintended consequences of this provision. This provision of SB 81 could potentially short circuit the search process for a new department heads or commissioners; it could prevent a governor from keeping a commissioner in place to finish a project; and it could leave state agencies without any leader at all if a governor and Executive Council fail to agree on a nominee.
"This provision will have minimal impact over the next 18 months, but it will undercut the ability of future governors, no matter what their political party, to effectively manage state government. Because the core of SB 81 contains important improvements to the management of personnel and programs throughout state government, I have decided to let this bill become law without my signature. However, I urge the legislature to reconsider the provision limiting the authority of governors to manage the appointment process department heads and commissioners."