The Commission

The Commission

The Little Hoover Commission, formally known as the Milton Marks "Little Hoover" Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy, is an independent state oversight agency created in 1962. The Commission's mission is to investigate state government operations and policy, and – through reports and legislative proposals – make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature to promote economy, efficiency and improved service in state operations. In addition, the Commission has a statutory obligation to review and make recommendations on all proposed government reorganization plans.

The Commission has broad and independent authority to evaluate the structure, organization, operation and function of every department, agency and executive branch of state government, along with the policies and methods for appropriating and administering funds.

Unlike fiscal or performance audits, the Commission’s studies look beyond whether programs comply with existing statutes and regulations. They instead explore how programs can and should function today and in the future.

In conducting its work, the Commission focuses on how the state may:

  • Improve outcomes of its programs.
     
  • Increase government transparency.
     
  • Reduce spending without sacrificing services.
     
  • Eliminate duplication or wasteful practices.
     
  • Consolidate services or abolish, create and reorganize government to better meet the needs of Californians.
     

The Little Hoover Commission welcomes the opportunity to work with the Governor, legislators and staff and is available to:

  • Support: Offer official support for legislation that implements our recommendations, including writing support letters or providing testimony at legislative hearings.
     
  • Advise: Brief policymakers and staff on issues researched by the Commission and discuss policy or organizational options, past or potential reforms and ideas for legislation.
     
  • Listen and Research: Consider letters from the Governor, members of the Legislature and others requesting future Commission study topics.
     

The Commission’s creation and membership, purpose and duties and powers are enumerated in statute.

By statute, the Commission is a balanced bipartisan board comprised of 13 members - five public members appointed by the Governor, four public members appointed by the Legislature, two Senators and two Assemblymembers – and staffed by seven permanent employees and occasional student interns.

Public members serve staggered, four-year terms while legislative members serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority.

Though the Commission operates within the executive branch of state government, it is not subject to the control or direction of any officer or employee of the executive branch, except in connection with appropriation of its budget.

 

The Commission relies on a comprehensive study process to gather information and consider ways to promote economy, efficiency and improved service in state government. The Commission’s open process creates an opportunity for the public to participate in the policy discourse.
 

  1. Select Study Topic

The Commissioners select study topics that come to their attention from citizens, legislators, their own experiences and other sources.

Over the course of a year, the Commission selects three to five issues to explore in depth, and also revisits issues raised in previous studies.

   2. Research

Under the direction of a subcommittee of Commissioners, staff conducts research by collecting data, reviewing research others have performed and consulting with experts and those most closely affected by the targeted topic.

The Commission seeks out successful leaders and model state, national and global programs for ideas and best practices.

   3. Convene

Based on preliminary staff research, the Commission subcommittee identifies key issues and oversees the creation of public hearings and advisory committee meetings to explore all sides of the issues in an open setting.

This public setting creates a forum for dialogue, collaboration and exploration of ideas from various perspectives. The Commission receives input from public officials, experts, advocates and other stakeholders.

The Commission also makes site visits to talk directly with people involved in the study area.

   4. Analyze and Deliberate

Once the Commission has fully explored the study field and engaged in a public process, the subcommittee and staff draft potential findings and recommendations that focus on the key issues.

The draft report is then submitted to the full Commission for its consideration.

   5. Adopt Report

The Commission, as a whole, may make changes before adopting and releasing the final report.

Once the Commission has collectively reached an agreement on the report’s findings and recommendations, the Commissioners vote to adopt the report.

All Commission reports are sent to the Governor and Legislature for their consideration.

   6. Implement

To encourage the implementation of its reports, the Commission engages in the following activities:

  • Meetings and Presentations: Commission staff routinely meets with legislative and executive branch officials to encourage or assist them with implementation efforts. Commissioners and senior staff do media interviews and make public presentations, appearing before associations, local government agencies and legislative committees.
     
  • Legislation: The Commission supports a number of bills that are based on or influenced by the Commission’s work. The Commission’s chair and senior staff testify at legislative hearings and work with legislative staff and interest groups to advance bills. The Commission does not oppose bills that are contrary to its recommendations.
     
  • Follow-up letters and hearings: As deemed necessary, Commissioners revisit study topics to monitor progress made and consider whether additional review is needed.

The Little Hoover Commission’s name and function derive from the federal Commission on Organization of the U.S. Executive Branch, unofficially dubbed the “Hoover Commission” after its chair, former President Herbert Hoover (R). 

An Act of Congress created the initial “Hoover Commission” in 1947 during the administration of President Harry S. Truman (D) and it operated through 1949. The Act charged its commission’s 12 members with developing recommendations to increase government efficiency and improve the organizational structure of the federal executive branch by reducing – through consolidation or elimination – the number of departments or creating new bodies as needed. Commission members were appointed by the President and Congress to represent the legislative and executive branches, as well as the public and private sectors, in a bipartisan manner. More than 70 percent of the commission’s 273 recommendations were fully or partially implemented, resulting in an extensive reorganization of the executive branch of the federal government following its years of explosive growth during the Great Depression and World War II.  

California Assemblymember Milton Marks authored legislation enacted in 1961 creating the Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy. The legislature fashioned California’s Commission, like its federal predecessor, as a bipartisan panel charged with making state operations more efficient and effective.  It differed in that it was established and operates with modest resources and without reference to any specific government problem.  

Senator Marks served on the commission from 1962 until 1993. To honor him, the Legislature in 1993 renamed the agency the Milton Marks "Little Hoover Commission" on California State Government Organization and Economy.

Former President Harry S. Truman (left) and former President Herbert Hoover (right) at the White House, February 7, 1951. Source: Truman Library. Photo by Matthew J. Connelly Papers.