Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

May 9, 2009

Op-Ed: Not first time history's shuffled

Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, a low-key, can-do officeholder now as she was as Kent County clerk in the 1990s, is one of the Big Four statewide politicians in Lansing.

Like Democratic Lt. Gov. John Cherry and Republican Attorney General Mike Cox, Land is in the mix of 2010 contenders to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Land, at this early stage, has not been as visible on the campaign and publicity-hyping trail as Cherry and Cox. But she told me last week: "I'm in -- no doubt about that," and will go into campaign mode within "the next couple of months."

Land is in a bit of a bureaucratic tiff with Granholm on an issue that relates to the current budget crunch, and to the all-too-frequent shuffling of state departments by governors.

In her State of the State message, Granholm proposed saving about $2 million by eliminating the Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL). It had been created by Gov. John Engler, drawing in part on some of the historical functions long and effectively handled under secretaries of state.

Engler also split up the Department of Natural Resources to create the Department of Environmental Quality. Granholm, wisely, has talked of a re-joining. She has asked Cherry to make recommendations on government reorganization.

Granholm suggested that organizations outside of government might pick up some of HAL's functions. Michigan State University is among prospects.

On Feb. 11, Land wrote Granholm saying her department "is a logical agency for all current HAL functions." On March 4, Granholm thanked Land for her "generous" offer and said, "we will certainly give it every consideration as plans are being developed."

But last week, Granholm's office told me, "Not all functions were once housed in the Department of State. Rather than assigning new responsibilities to the Secretary of State, in a time of declining revenue, the administration believes that the Secretary of State should focus instead on the department's core mission, not on assuming new services neither the state nor the department can afford."

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