In 1931, during the Great Depression, a movement was started in Texas and other states to reform the administrative machinery and to reduce the high cost of state government. Demand for reorganization and economy in Texas was responsible for House Concurrent Resolution No. 58, passed by the Forty-second Legislature on May 18, 1931. This resolution established a joint committee of five members and authorized it to investigate all state departments, institutions, and the judiciary. The president of the state Senate was responsible for appointing two senators, and the speaker of the House appointed three representatives. Senators H. Grady Woodruff and Carl C. Hardin and representatives Harry N. Graves, Phil L. Sanders, and J. Turney Terrell were appointed to the committee.
The legislators organized and met on June 10, 1931, under the name Joint Legislative Committee on Organization and Economy, with Graves as chairman and Sanders as secretary. The committee employed Griffenhagen and Associates, specialists in public administration and finance who had worked on similar projects throughout the United States and Canada, to make a survey and act as consultants. The Griffenhagen staff made comprehensive examination of all phases of state administration and incorporated its report in thirteen separately printed and bound parts, aggregating well over 2,000 pages. The volumes covered fiscal and administrative agencies, highways, law enforcement, the judiciary, welfare programs, prisons, health, and education.
The joint committee submitted the findings, under the title The Government of the State of Texas, to the Forty-third Legislature in due time, it thought, for the specific recommendations to be considered in the budget for the biennium 1933 to 1935. The committee stated in the letter of transmittal to the legislature that it believed the recommended reforms might save over $6 million a year without curtailing the services of the government. The recommendations called for a simpler governmental structure that would provide for more effective financial control. They included reducing the executive branch from its 131 departments to nineteen, consolidating special funds, and appointing an independent auditor. The committee called for a shorter ballot by which only the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general would be elected; the governor's powers would be increased to include the right to appoint other major officials. The report also proposed to establish departments of finance and administrative services and taxation and revenue; it advocated a compensation pay plan for government workers based upon job requirements rather than fixed salaries.
Although some changes advocated by the efficiency experts were questionable, it was inertia and political expediency that prevented the Forty-third Legislature and subsequent ones from taking any effective action on the recommendations. The net result of this rather expensive if unfulfilled project was to leave a document of considerable value to students of Texas history and government.