Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/06/2003 08:06 AM STA

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 0297                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH 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."                                                                              
Number 0336                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  VIC KOHRING,  Alaska State  Legislature, sponsor,                                                               
relayed  that  HB 288  changes  the  name  of the  Department  of                                                               
Community  & Economic  Development  (DCED) to  the Department  of                                                               
Commerce.   He opined  that the  name "Commerce"  more accurately                                                               
reflects  the  objectives  of  the  department,  that  being  to:                                                               
promote  growth  in  Alaska's  economy  through  the  large-scale                                                               
trading,  buying, and  selling of  goods between  cities, states,                                                               
and  countries; and  have business  dealings with  the same.   He                                                               
relayed  that  the  DCED's  web site  lists,  among  others,  the                                                               
following two  objectives:  "Organize and  conduct business trade                                                               
missions to expand  product sales in current  markets and develop                                                               
new  markets,"  and  "Marketing Alaska-Sell  Alaska's  goods  and                                                               
services throughout  the world."   A  second reason  for changing                                                               
the name,  he offered, is  that it will "eliminate  any confusion                                                               
that's out there  about whether we even have an  agency in Alaska                                                               
that is tasked  to develop commerce as we attempt  to promote the                                                               
state throughout the world and attract investment here."                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING  mentioned  that  numerous  other  states                                                               
include "Commerce" in  the title of their comparable  agency.  In                                                               
addition  to  the   aforementioned  reasons,  the  administration                                                               
desires  a name  change, he  remarked, noting  that the  governor                                                               
announced  in   his  "State  of   the  State"  speech   that  the                                                               
administration  would  be  referring  to the  department  as  the                                                               
"Department of Commerce."  House  Bill 288 merely formalizes that                                                               
change and is accompanied by a zero fiscal note.                                                                                
Number 0526                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM moved to report  HB 288 out of committee                                                               
with individual recommendations and  the accompanying zero fiscal                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE    KOHRING    explained    that    although    the                                                               
administration desires  a name  change, it  wishes for  the words                                                               
"Economic Development" to  remain in that new name;  thus the new                                                               
name   would  be   "the  Department   of   Commerce  &   Economic                                                               
Development."   He  said  that he  would be  amenable  to such  a                                                               
change to HB 288                                                                                                                
Number 0629                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  DAHLSTROM withdrew  her motion  to report  HB 288                                                               
out of committee.                                                                                                               
Number 0636                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN made a motion to  adopt Amendment 1:  to add,                                                               
after  "Commerce" on  page 1,  line  7, the  words "and  Economic                                                               
Development"; to retain, after "Commerce"  on page 1, line 9, the                                                               
words  "and Economic  Development;  to add,  after "Commerce"  on                                                               
page  2, line  2, the  words "and  Economic Development";  and to                                                               
add, after "commerce" on page 2,  line 2, the words "and economic                                                               
development".    There  being   no  objection,  Amendment  1  was                                                               
Number 0835                                                                                                                     
EDGAR  BLATCHFORD,   Commissioner,  Department  of   Community  &                                                               
Economic  Development (DCED),  indicated that  the administration                                                               
supports HB  288, as amended, adding  that the cost to  the state                                                               
will be minimal  in that the changes effected will  be gradual in                                                               
terms of acquiring  supplies containing the new name.   He added,                                                               
"We are eager  to change the name of the  department to "Commerce                                                               
& Economic  Development, simply for the  sake that we need  to be                                                               
more effective  in our communications  with people:   the private                                                               
sector, and in the community, and in the international arena."                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  BLATCHFORD,  in  response to  questions,  confirmed                                                               
that  he'd been  commissioner of  the Department  of Community  &                                                               
Regional  Affairs  (DCRA)  under  Governor Hickel  in  the  early                                                               
1990s;  that in  1999, the  DCRA was  merged with  what was  then                                                               
known  as the  Department of  Commerce and  Economic Development;                                                               
and that with the change proposed  by HB 288, the last vestige of                                                               
the  name "Community  & Regional  Affairs" will  be removed.   He                                                               
relayed that  his heart and  sole is in rural  Alaska; therefore,                                                               
one of  the things he did  as the commissioner of  the Department                                                               
of  Community  &  Economic  Development  was  to  reorganize  the                                                               
department to  reflect a continuing  commitment to  activities in                                                               
the unorganized boroughs  as well as the organized  boroughs.  He                                                               
mentioned  that  one  of  the   divisions  in  the  DCED  is  now                                                               
responsible for all  of the programs that were  under the purview                                                               
of the DCRA.                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER BLATCHFORD  went on  to say  that the  DCED strongly                                                               
believes  that   the  municipalities,   the  boroughs,   and  the                                                               
unorganized  areas of  the state  need to  be at  the table  when                                                               
public  policy   discussions  are  underway.     He  assured  the                                                               
committee  that  the proposed  change  in  the department's  name                                                               
contains  no  intention  to  diminish  the  functions  that  were                                                               
formerly under  the purview of  the DCRA,  adding that it  is the                                                               
DCED's  intention to  strengthen  its commitment  to the  private                                                               
sector and to economic development  in both the organized and the                                                               
unorganized boroughs.   He relayed that the  department views the                                                               
name change as a strengthening of the its mission.                                                                              
Number 1121                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  WEYHRAUCH   asked  whether  either  the   sponsor  or  the                                                               
commissioner would  have any objection  to changing the  title of                                                               
HB 288 to  say:  "An act  changing the name of  the Department of                                                               
Department  of   Community  and   Economic  Development   to  the                                                               
Department of Commerce and Economic Development."                                                                               
CHAIR  WEYHRAUCH noted  that Representative  Kohring is  "shaking                                                               
[his] head, 'No,' to that title change."                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ  asked for  a  definition  of the  word                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING  replied that  he defines  it both  by the                                                               
dictionary  and  by  the   department's  mission  statement,  and                                                               
reiterated his earlier comments on that issue.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ  offered that  under Article  X, Section                                                               
14, of the Alaska State Constitution,  it says:  "An agency shall                                                               
be  established by  law  in  the executive  branch  of the  state                                                               
government  to advise  and assist  local governments.   It  shall                                                               
review  their activities,  collect and  publish local  government                                                               
information, and  perform other  duties prescribed  by law."   He                                                               
pointed out that  "that term" was not mentioned in  either of the                                                               
definitions  proffered by  the  sponsor.   He  opined that  "this                                                               
title change  doesn't sweep in the  constitutional requirements,"                                                               
adding  that during  the discussions  surrounding  the merger  in                                                               
1999, there was a great deal of  angst that the DCRA was going to                                                               
be  swallowed  up  by  the  Department  of  Commerce  &  Economic                                                               
Development and that  the concerns of rural Alaska  were going be                                                               
swept under the rug.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE   BERKOWITZ  relayed   that  he   viewed  Governor                                                               
Murkowski's announcement  as a retreat  from the  commitments and                                                               
assurances  made during  the original  debate that  the needs  of                                                               
rural communities  were going  to be met.   There is  a lot  in a                                                               
name, he remarked,  adding that the signal being sent  via HB 288                                                               
is:  "Not only have we  done away with ... 'Regional Affairs,' in                                                               
phase one, now  we're going to do away with  the 'Community' part                                                               
of what  we're supposed to  take care of."   He said it  seems to                                                               
him  that the  proposed change  deviates from  the constitutional                                                               
mission that used to belong exclusively  to the DCRA, and that it                                                               
adds another  brick in  the wall between  urban and  rural Alaska                                                               
that could easily be interpreted as a slight to rural Alaska.                                                                   
Number 1465                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING suggested that  the creation of a division                                                               
within the  DCED specifically tasked with  administering programs                                                               
to  rural  Alaska  was  an  adequate  solution  to  the  concerns                                                               
expressed  regarding  the  original  merger.   He  said  that  he                                                               
believes that  the assurances made  in 1999, that  rural programs                                                               
are taken very  seriously and that the intent is  to retain them,                                                               
still apply.                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER BLATCHFORD said  that as Alaska has  changed, so has                                                               
the  department.    At  statehood,  all  of  Alaska  was  in  the                                                               
unorganized borough,  and since  that time,  he offered,  much of                                                               
Alaska's population is now living  in the organized borough or in                                                               
some form  of a  borough or  under a  joint city-borough  type of                                                               
government.   The  department's mission  is still  the same  with                                                               
regard to dealing with municipalities,  he assured the committee,                                                               
adding that some communities still  welcome the department's help                                                               
and some no longer need it.                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER BLATCHFORD offered  his view that the  goal of state                                                               
government  is to  enable  local governments  to  make their  own                                                               
decisions as much as possible.   He also offered his view, as the                                                               
former  commissioner of  DCRA, that  rather than  the DCRA  being                                                               
swallowed   up  by   the  Department   of  Commerce   &  Economic                                                               
Development, the opposite  has happened in that  the functions of                                                               
the  DCRA swallowed  up  the Department  of  Commerce &  Economic                                                               
Development.    He  again  offered  to  the  committee  that  the                                                               
department's mission remains the same,  to be available to assist                                                               
communities and provide them with as many resources as possible.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ  offered  his  opinion,  however,  that                                                               
notwithstanding the commissioner's  assurances, everything he has                                                               
seen  from the  current  administration runs  counter to  letting                                                               
local people make local decisions.  He added:                                                                                   
      The signal that is sent, in addition, by the change                                                                       
       here, is fairly unmistakable.  And there are good                                                                        
     people involved  in your department,  and I  have every                                                                    
     confidence in  your ability to steward  the department.                                                                    
     But  these departments  and  these institutions  endure                                                                    
     long after we're gone.  And  we ought to make sure that                                                                    
     the  good that  [is] occurring  now and  the good  that                                                                    
     occurred in  the past continues,  and a name  change is                                                                    
     just a  precursor to a  mission change.  And  a mission                                                                    
     change could  readily happen under someone  who is much                                                                    
     less friendly to rural Alaska  and rural needs than you                                                                    
Number 1785                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM moved to report  HB 288 [as amended] out                                                               
of   committee   with    individual   recommendations   and   the                                                               
accompanying zero fiscal note.                                                                                                  
Number 1792                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ objected.                                                                                              
CHAIR  WEYHRAUCH   asked  whether   there  were   any  objections                                                               
regarding his suggestion  to change the title of HB  288 to read:                                                               
"An  act changing  the name  of the  Department of  Community and                                                               
Economic Development  to the Department of  Commerce and Economic                                                               
Development."  He added, "I move that title change."                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ said he objects to that title change.                                                                  
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH announced that the  title change had already been                                                               
adopted,  and invited  Representative Berkowitz  to speak  to his                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ remarked:                                                                                              
     Economic development  is one of these  vague terms that                                                                    
     we all  tried out, particularly around  campaign season                                                                    
     and in  our great  rhetorical flourishes on  the floor,                                                                    
     but it  doesn't have  a specific meaning.   And  ... we                                                                    
     ought  to  be  precise  and short,  and  "Commerce"  is                                                                    
     pretty  short and  to  the  point.   It  also links  up                                                                    
     fairly well,  I think,  with the federal  department of                                                                    
     commerce, and there  could be benefits from  that.  So,                                                                    
     we ought  to be short  and to  the point, and  if we're                                                                    
     going to  get rid  of "Economic  Development" --  if it                                                                    
     wasn't  the intent  of the  sponsor  to have  "Economic                                                                    
     Development" in it,  the administration was acquiescent                                                                    
     in  that.   It's  their  department  and I  think  they                                                                    
     should  call it  what they  intended to  call it.   And                                                                    
     hopefully, in future years, we'll  go back to making it                                                                    
     what it's supposed to be.                                                                                                  
Number 1882                                                                                                                     
A  roll  call vote  was  taken.   Representatives  Holm,  Seaton,                                                               
Dahlstrom, Lynn,  and Weyhrauch  voted in  favor of  reporting HB                                                               
288, as  amended, from committee.   Representatives Berkowitz and                                                               
Gruenberg  voted  against  it.    Therefore,  CSHB  288(STA)  was                                                               
reported from  the House  State Affairs  Standing Committee  by a                                                               
vote of 5-2.                                                                                                                    

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