Legislature(2001 - 2002)
03/26/2002 08:05 AM House CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 299-ALASKA PLACE NAMES HJR 32-FEDERAL PLACE NAMES CO-CHAIR MORGAN announced that the committee would simultaneously hear HOUSE BILL NO. 299, "An Act providing for the naming and renaming of Alaska geographic features." and HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 32, Encouraging the United States Board on Geographic Names to adopt place name changes proposed by the Alaska Historical Commission. Number 0105 REPRESENTATIVE FRED DYSON, Alaska State Legislature, testified as the sponsor of HB 299 and HJR 32. Representative Dyson explained that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the [Alaska] Place Names Commission have the responsibility of establishing geographical place names in Alaska. Although the USGS takes recommendations from the state, there has been a long-standing practice not to change established names. Representative Dyson said that he appreciated that and the desire to not create confusion. However, many of the place names of Alaska's geographical features are named in inappropriate ways. Representative Dyson mentioned the efforts to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali, which has led to both names appearing on many maps. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON explained that HB 299 authorizes the state agency to begin the process for the renaming of Alaska geographical features for appropriate Alaska originating names when the agency deems appropriate to do so. The resolution, HJR 32, requests that the federal government begin the process of giving deference to the place names that come from Alaska. Representative Dyson reviewed many place names that could be named more appropriately. He informed the committee that the [Alaska Place Names Commission] sees some very practical problems in that the commission doesn't have much staff. Without research staff, progress will be difficult. The administration has produced a fiscal note that reflects the need for staff. "At this point, I'm not overly optimistic that we will get this project through the legislature this year," he remarked. Therefore, he requested that the committee zero out the fiscal note and adopt an amendment that he would suggest to page 3. Number 0621 CO-CHAIR MEYER inquired as to how the committee would zero out the fiscal note. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON answered that it merely requires a motion that prevails. CO-CHAIR MEYER pointed out that there will definitely be a cost for this. He related his understanding that the fiscal note would fund one-and-a-quarter person. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON replied yes. He pointed out that the legislation doesn't establish any deadlines or timelines and thus he anticipated that the commission would begin the process of developing its own criteria for the changing of place names. This legislation merely authorizes [the commission] to begin this process. Representative Dyson explained that currently the commission's business has been reactive; never before has the commission been in the business of changing names. If there is more than one name proposed for a geographical feature, the commission acts as a referee. Again, this merely authorizes the commission to have this additional authority to change names when the agency deems necessary. Number 0790 CO-CHAIR MEYER asked if it would be possible to zero out the fiscal note and request that the federal government pay for this through the resolution. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON replied no. He clarified that the resolution merely requests that the federal government give deference to the state recommendations. He reiterated that generally, the federal government hasn't been receptive to changing names on maps. CO-CHAIR MEYER turned to a letter Representative Dyson wrote to the Alaska Historical Commission that explained the intent. He asked if Representative Dyson had received a response from the Alaska Historical Commission. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON noted that he met with the Alaska Historical Commission during its recent annual meeting. He remarked that the committee could view the fiscal note as the Alaska Historical Commission's formal response. He agreed with Co-Chair Meyer that their response is that they are willing to do this, but money is necessary. The Native members of the group, in particular, were excited with having this authority. Number 0935 REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI related his understanding that if the committee zeroed out the fiscal note and moved the bill, then the committee would be supporting something without funding it at this time. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON agreed. In further response to Representative Scalzi, Representative Dyson agreed that the commission would consider [all proposed] names. Number 1073 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON turned to his amendment, which read as follows: Page 3, line 26, Delete "widely" Following "feature" Insert "or by local Alaskan Native people" Number 1211 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA moved the above amendment, Amendment 1. There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted. Number 1239 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA moved that the committee zero out the fiscal note, Amendment 2. REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO objected. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA explained that normally she would go with the agency on a fiscal note. However, the bill doesn't require any overt action. "In terms of making a statement, I think it's a good idea. I think you're eventually going to have, for them to do any of this including their duties they already have, have to do this. But this time I could buy it because I like the idea," she explained. She expressed her desire for this to make it to the floor this session. REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO withdrew his objection. CO-CHAIR MEYER noted his support of zeroing out the fiscal note, but pointed out that the risk is that [the commission] won't do it. He said that he was willing to support the amendment if Representative Dyson was willing to take that risk. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON suspected and hoped that some local folks, Native Alaskans in particular, will propose some changes. Hopefully, there will only be a few proposals that the commission can handle as a course of their normal business. Representative Dyson announced his intention to support more staff for the Alaska Historical Commission and the naming board in the future. However, he didn't believe this is a good year to look for more money for something that, although important, isn't vital to the state's business. Number 1393 CO-CHAIR MEYER moved to report HB 299 as amended out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal note. There being no objection, CSHB 299 was reported from the House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee. CO-CHAIR MEYER moved to report HJR 32 out of committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, HJR 32 was reported from the House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee. The committee took a brief at-ease from 8:27 a.m. to 8:31 a.m.