Union Leader columnist Charlie Arlinghaus made some good points in his piece for us yesterday on how New Hampshire government could be modernized. He argues that the state could do with fewer and more streamlined departments and that more department heads should serve at the pleasure of the governor.
We have no problem with fewer and more streamlined departments. Having three liquor commissioners, all at hefty salaries, is oversight overkill. Having separate commissioners for labor and employment security also seems wasteful. Arlinghaus notes that many other states have combined the two jobs, and departments, into one.
The fact that the governor and Executive Council like to have all department heads available at the council’s twice-monthly meetings is also inefficient and unnecessary and we hope that the new governor and new council will put a stop to it.
It is department heads serving at the pleasure of the governor, a suggestion Arlinghaus has made before, that gives us pause. Yes, New Hampshire isn’t like most states in this regard. New Hampshire isn’t like most states in having a strong executive council and a relatively “weak” governor setup, either. And they have worked well, for the most part.
The council is a good check on the governor. Terms for department heads that may outlast a governor’s own tenure can be frustrating to a new governor, to be sure. But a change in department-head tenure would no doubt soon lead to a demand for a four-year gubernatorial term, for the sake of continuity. A four-year term is one thing the state should not do. Voters here keep a tight rein on the governor’s seat, and the governor knows it.