Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/13/2003 08:10 AM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 288-CHANGING NAME OF DEPT OF COMM & ECON DEV. CHAIR MORGAN announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 288, "An Act changing the name of the Department of Community and Economic Development." [Before the committee is CSHB 288(STA).] CHAIR MORGAN announced his intent to move HB 288 from committee today. Number 0116 REPRESENTATIVE VIC KOHRING, Alaska State Legislature, spoke as the sponsor of HB 288. Representative Kohring explained that CSHB 288(STA) simply changes the name of the Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) to the Department of Commerce & Economic Development. He said that there seems to be some confusion with regard to the mission of DCED, and therefore the name change would clarify that the department's focus is to promote commerce and emphasize economic development in the state. Representative Kohring reminded committee members that Governor Murkowski's address in the fall discussed economic development and indicated his desire to make this name change. Representative Kohring emphasized that the name change wouldn't erode the integrity of the department, but would simply make it's role clear and eliminate confusion. Furthermore, the name change would promote the fact that Alaska is open for business. REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING acknowledged that previous committees have had concern with regard to the impact this name change would have on rural programs. He indicated that this concern stems from the 1999 merger of the Department of Commerce & Economic Development with the Department of Community & Regional Affairs to form the present Department of Community & Economic Development. At that time there was concern with regard to whether the integrity of the Department of Community & Regional Affairs would be maintained once the merger occurred. Four years later, the answer is yes and the [community and regional] programs have remained in tact. As a result of the 1999 merger, the Division of Community Advocacy was created. Therefore, Representative Kohring said he didn't believe this name change would impact rural programs. In fact, the emphasis on commerce is good for rural and urban Alaska. Number 0505 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF asked if the Department of Commerce & Economic Development was the original name. REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING replied yes. Number 0556 EDGAR BLATCHFORD, Commissioner, Department of Community & Economic Development, echoed the reasoning of Representative Kohring. Over the years, there has been considerable confusion with regard to the mission of the department. Commissioner Blatchford opined that there is further confusion because some people still refer to the department as the Department of Commerce. The desire is to send a clear message that Alaska is open for business. He related his belief that communities recognize the importance of economic development. Furthermore, the [name change] wouldn't dilute the mission of the department. He informed the committee that the Division of Community and Business Development was reorganized and the name changed to the Division of Community Advocacy in order to reflect the constitutional intent for the department to be an advocate for municipalities. Commissioner Blatchford said that there needs to be a common calling card for all who want to do business with Alaska. Number 0794 REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA recalled the department's name change to the Department of Community & Economic Development and the concern that the department had been a rural department in which people were comfortable. Representative Cissna agreed that changing "Community" to "Commerce" would look better and although such a change would make it a little less confusing for some, it could be confusing for others. She asked if the aforementioned has been addressed. COMMISSIONER BLATCHFORD said that "we" recognized that the name change was coming. In order to strengthen the commitment to rural Alaska the Division of Community and Business Development's name was changed to the Division of Community Advocacy. This division housed most of the activities of the former Department of Community & Regional Affairs. He noted that no cost was attached to the division name change. CHAIR MORGAN, upon determining no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony. Number 1122 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF moved to report CSHB 288(STA) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal note. There being no objection, CSHB 288(STA) was reported from the House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee.