Panel rescinds merger plan for Dept. of Aging

December 03, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

After heavy lobbying by advocates for senior citizens, a commission studying state government efficiency has rescinded an idea to fold the Department of Aging into another cabinet-level agency.

Meeting yesterday for the final time before submitting findings to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Commission on the Structure and Efficiency of State Government concluded that the department should remain a Cabinet-level entity.

A draft report released three weeks ago raised the possibility that the department could be incorporated in a new Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, which Ehrlich has said he wants to create. The proposal created an uproar among senior citizen groups, which said their needs would be overlooked.

"It was a grave concern to us that we were going to be lost in the shuffle," said Ed Mohler, president of the Maryland branch of the Association of Retired Americans.

The commission, headed by former Gov. Marvin Mandel, will present its report to Ehrlich on Monday. The governor's office will review the scores of recommendations and decide which to implement.

The top recommendation is to create a Cabinet-level Chesapeake Bay czar to oversee scattered restoration efforts.

Ehrlich formed the commission this past summer, fulfilling a campaign pledge to seek ways to make government leaner. But commission members have complained that they did not have time for a sufficient analysis, and the report contains no estimates of how much money - if any - would be saved by the changes.

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