Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/09/2003 03:40 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 288 - CHANGING NAME OF DEPT OF COMM & ECON DEV.                                                                            
Number 1321                                                                                                                     
CHAIR ANDERSON  announced that the  next 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 was CSHB 288(STA).]                                                                                                   
Number 1327                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  VIC KOHRING,  Alaska State  Legislature, sponsor,                                                               
said that HB 288 changes the  name of the Department of Community                                                               
&  Economic Development  to "Department  of  Commerce &  Economic                                                               
Development."  He opined that  the name "Department of Commerce &                                                               
Economic  Development" more  accurately  reflects  the goals  and                                                               
strategies  of that  department, adding  that its  mission is  to                                                               
promote commerce  and the  development of  Alaska's economy.   He                                                               
pointed out that Governor Murkowski,  in his "State of the State"                                                               
speech  in January,  announced that  his administration  would be                                                               
referring  to the  department as  the  "Department of  Commerce."                                                               
Representative  Kohring  said that  the  goal  of  HB 288  is  to                                                               
formalize that concept in statute.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING opined that  using the name "Department of                                                               
Community  &  Economic   Development"  somewhat  complicates  the                                                               
state's   efforts  to   attract  investment.     He   listed  the                                                               
department's  goals  and  strategies   as  being  the  following:                                                               
promote  local economic  development and  crucial infrastructure,                                                               
market  Alaska's   goods  and  services  throughout   the  world,                                                               
organize  and  conduct  business  and trade  missions  to  expand                                                               
product sales  in current  markets and  develop new  markets, and                                                               
facilitate   the  exchange   of   information  between   Alaska's                                                               
exporters and potential customers.   He mentioned that many other                                                               
states have a  comparable department with the  word "commerce" in                                                               
its name.                                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE   CRAWFORD   noted   that   a   few   years   ago,                                                               
Representative  Kohring sponsored  the legislation  that combined                                                               
the Department of Community and  Regional Affairs (DCRA) with the                                                               
Department of  Commerce & Economic Development,  thereby creating                                                               
what  is now  known as  the  Department of  Community &  Economic                                                               
Development.   He asked what has  happened to the mission  of the                                                               
DCRA:   is  it  no  longer a  part  of  the current  department's                                                               
mission?  He  added that according to his  recollection, having a                                                               
portion of  each of  the old department  names combined  into the                                                               
new department  name was a  compromise which intended  to reflect                                                               
that the new department would carry  on with the missions of both                                                               
departments.    House  Bill  288  appears to  do  away  with  all                                                               
vestiges of the DCRA.                                                                                                           
Number 1544                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING offered that the  former DCRA has not gone                                                               
away; instead,  it has become  a division within the  DCED called                                                               
the  Division   of  Community  and  Business   Development.    He                                                               
indicated that because it is  important to develop Alaska's rural                                                               
economy, it  is not  his intention  to hurt or  do away  with the                                                               
former DCRA's  programs.  Merging  the two departments  has saved                                                               
money by  eliminating duplication  and trimming  upper management                                                               
costs, he  opined, and  has thus ensured  the continuance  of the                                                               
programs important  to rural  Alaska.   He assured  the committee                                                               
that even  with a name  change, the department will  maintain its                                                               
Division of Community and Business Development.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG said he  is concerned that changing the                                                               
department's  name   will  leave  people  in   rural  communities                                                               
wondering  whether   their  needs  will  be   overlooked  by  the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING, in  an  effort  to allay  Representative                                                               
Guttenberg's concern,  opined that the department's  track record                                                               
over  the last  four years  demonstrates  that the  DCED has  not                                                               
compromised  the aforementioned  programs  and  has instead  made                                                               
them better by becoming more efficient.                                                                                         
Number 1683                                                                                                                     
EDGAR  BLATCHFORD,   Commissioner,  Department  of   Community  &                                                               
Economic  Development   (DCED),  said  that   the  administration                                                               
supports HB  288.  He added  that the term "commerce"  is broader                                                               
and more  clearly reflects the  role of the department,  and that                                                               
the  administration believes  that  "commerce" includes  dealings                                                               
with governments  and all of  their subdivisions -  the boroughs,                                                               
the  unorganized   boroughs,  and   other  entities   within  the                                                               
unorganized boroughs.   After  mentioning that  he'd at  one time                                                               
served as  commissioner for  the DCRA, he  relayed that  with the                                                               
merger, the  DCED's mission is twofold:   one, continue to  be an                                                               
advocate  for  rural  Alaska  and   the  municipalities  in  both                                                               
organized and unorganized  boroughs; and, two, be  "somewhat of a                                                               
regulator"  regarding  occupational   licensing,  insurance,  and                                                               
COMMISSIONER BLATCHFORD went on to say:                                                                                         
      We feel that this will send a very clear message to                                                                       
       the people who are eager to do business, or [are]                                                                        
     thinking  about  doing  business, in  the  state,  that                                                                    
     Alaska is  open for  business and  that we  welcome the                                                                    
     opportunity  to discuss  business  activities, both  in                                                                    
     rural Alaska and  in the urban centers. ... I  was at a                                                                    
     conference  the other  day, and  it was  where you  had                                                                    
     financing agencies  from across the country  meeting in                                                                    
     Anchorage,   and  when   I  was   introduced  as   "the                                                                    
     commissioner  of the  soon to  be called  Department of                                                                    
     Commerce   and  Economic   Development,"  one   of  the                                                                    
     representatives  from  another  state leaned  over  and                                                                    
     said that is what their state  did two years ago - they                                                                    
     changed  the name  of the  department  to more  clearly                                                                    
     reflect what  the mission of  that department  was, and                                                                    
     that was  to encourage commercial  activities, business                                                                    
     activities, economic activities.                                                                                           
COMMISSIONER  BLATCHFORD, in  response to  a question,  said that                                                               
when he  was commissioner of  DCRA, his  mission was to  serve as                                                               
the commissioner  of a department  that was dedicated,  heart and                                                               
soul, to rural  Alaska, to assist those  communities in accessing                                                               
government,   in   generating   economic   activities,   and   in                                                               
establishing local government entities.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD  asked whether changing  the department's                                                               
name will result in those goals no longer being a focus.                                                                        
COMMISSIONER  BLATCHFORD   said  that  the  development   of  the                                                               
Division of  Community and Business  Development within  the DCED                                                               
was intended  to ensure that  those goals  did remain a  focus of                                                               
the department.   He said  that the DCED  takes its role  in that                                                               
regard very  seriously, and  that the  Division of  Community and                                                               
Business Development  is the largest  section in  the department.                                                               
He went  on to say:   "The way  the department is  organized now,                                                               
you have the  regulators, so to speak, on one  side, and then you                                                               
have the advocates, so to speak,  on the other side, and we bring                                                               
the two together  to look at how we can  best ... foster economic                                                               
activities  throughout  the  state."    In  response  to  another                                                               
question, he said  that he did not see  changing the department's                                                               
name  as  creating a  problem.    He  opined  that in  order  for                                                               
Alaska's  communities to  become self  sufficient, there  must be                                                               
economic activity.   The DCED will continue to  work closely with                                                               
communities to  help them  develop a  strong private  sector, and                                                               
changing the  name of  the department, he  surmised, will  send a                                                               
strong message  that the  private sector is  the entity  that can                                                               
offer hope, economic opportunities, jobs, and responsibility.                                                                   
Number 1957                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  DAHLSTROM moved  to report  CSHB 288(STA)  out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
zero fiscal note.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG  asked  whether   the  sponsor  and  the                                                               
commissioner had given consideration to other possible names.                                                                   
COMMISSIONER BLATCHFORD  indicated that  they had  simply settled                                                               
on "the Department of Commerce & Economic Development."                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked how the  name change is going to be                                                               
perceived by those living in rural Alaska.                                                                                      
COMMISSIONER BLATCHFORD replied:                                                                                                
     I  think   ...  Alaska   has  changed.  ...   When  the                                                                    
     Department  of  Community   and  Regional  Affairs  was                                                                    
     created 30-some  years ago, ...  more of Alaska  was in                                                                    
     the  unorganized  borough,  and   a  large  portion  of                                                                    
     Alaska's  population was  in  the unorganized  borough.                                                                    
     That has changed  to some degree and you  now have more                                                                    
     boroughs,   certainly   more   communities,   organized                                                                    
     communities,  [and] second  class cities  recognized by                                                                    
     the state.   So ... I  think ... changing ...  the name                                                                    
     is a recognition that Alaska  has also changed and that                                                                    
     we're moving with the times ...  in this day and age of                                                                    
     budget cuts,  ... that we're seizing  the opportunities                                                                    
     to present a good public  image that we want commercial                                                                    
     activities, business activities, throughout the state.                                                                     
[Chair Anderson turned the gavel over to Vice Chair Lynn.]                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  mentioned that he'd  considered offering                                                               
an  amendment to  change  the department's  name  in a  different                                                               
fashion, but had since changed his mind.                                                                                        
Number 2120                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM again moved  to report CSHB 288(STA) out                                                               
of   committee   with    individual   recommendations   and   the                                                               
accompanying zero fiscal note.                                                                                                  
Number 2130                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG  objected.  He indicated  that removing                                                               
"Community" from  the department's name is  a significant, albeit                                                               
symbolic, change because it shifts the focus from rural Alaska.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  CRAWFORD opined  that  the  proposed name  change                                                               
focuses the department's mission  away from communities - leaving                                                               
out  regional   affairs  -  and  that   "community  advocacy"  or                                                               
"regional   affairs"  should   be   included  as   part  of   the                                                               
department's name.                                                                                                              
VICE CHAIR  LYNN opined  that commerce, in  both urban  and rural                                                               
areas, needs to be developed.                                                                                                   
Number 2253                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG removed his objection.                                                                                
Number 2257                                                                                                                     
VICE CHAIR LYNN announced that  without objection, [CSHB 288(STA)                                                               
was  reported   from  the  House  Labor   and  Commerce  Standing                                                               

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