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Patridge public safety proposal apparently dead

SALEM ' A proposal to put state public safety agencies under one administrative umbrella appears to be dead.

House Bill 3643 got a chilly reception at a legislative hearing Wednesday, and the governor's office is opposed to the bill, sponsored by Rep. Rob Patridge, R-Medford, and four other members of the Ways and Means subcommittee on public safety. Patridge is the chairman.

The legislation directs the governor to create a Department of Public Safety that, in addition to the state police, would include the Corrections Department, Parole Board, the Office of Emergency Management, the Oregon Youth Authority and the state fire marshal, among others.

I think the governor and the Legislature need to look at the issue of how to better coordinate public safety, Patridge testified. Creating a Department of Public Safety could stop inter-departmental rivalry, eliminate duplication and improve public safety services for Oregonians.

— Although the legislation directs the governor to have a budget prepared for the new department effective in 2005, Patridge said another section allows Gov. Ted Kulongoski to present an alternative plan.

Some committee members were skeptical about creating a new department.

What's broken? asked Rep. Joanne Verger, D-Coos Bay. There probably should be a lot better coordination and cooperation, but that probably can be accomplished without creating a large new agency.

Kulongoski spokesman Craig Campbell outlined the governor's opposition to the measure. He said creating a new department does not necessarily mean member agencies will mesh.

He cited the Department of Human Resources consolidation in the 1970s as the poster child for big is not necessarily better.

We are still working to integrate agencies that were brought into DHS, Campbell said. He said the governor's office plans an overview of the way the public agencies operate to determine whether better coordination can be achieved.

The committee took no action.

Don Jepsen is a free-lance writer living in Salem.