With all of the budget deficits and other problems looming throughout state government, some state agencies are getting cosmetic facelifts. The latest was a bill to change the name of the state Resources Agency to the Natural Resources Agency, which sailed through committee on Tuesday.
Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, introduced SB 1464 on behalf of the agency. It passed the Senate Governmental Organization on an 8-0 vote. Senators Jim Battin, R-Palm Desert, and Jeff Denham, R-Merced, abstained.
The bill is one of several currently active that would rename or reorganize large state agencies. Wile the Maldonado bill is mostly cosmetic, other bills would have make fundamental, structural changes in the way state government is organized.
Over the in the Assembly GO committee, AB 2490 also passed on an 8-0 vote. The bill from Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Riverside, would unite numerous police and emergency responder agencies under a California Public Safety Agency. It still faces opposition from the Emergency Medical Services Administrators' Association of California and several local groups.
On Monday, Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, made extensive amendments to AB 38. This bill would merge the Office of Homeland Security into the Office of Emergency services. It stalled in the Senate Public Safety Committee last fall after objections from the committee's chairwoman, Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles.
But unlike those other two instances, the name change for the Resources agency does not come with any functional change in the way the agency does business. Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman sent a letter to Senate GO chair Dean Florez, D-Shafter, on Monday seeking to smooth the bill's passage. The new name, he said, "would more accurately reflect the agency's primary mission of overseeing the state's activities relating to the conservation, management and enhancement of California's natural resources." The bill would also make changes in the Government Code to "accurately reflect those governmental entities currently within the agency's jurisdiction," Chrisman wrote.
Like any other bill changing the name of an agency, SB 1464 would incur costs mainly in the replacement of stationary, business cards, vehicle decals and the like. While it has yet to be written into the bill, Maldonado's staff released a statement saying they will minimize the cost by: "mandating that ‘old' supplies and logos continue to be used until they are exhausted or unserviceable."
"The Resources Agency, which is the sponsor of this legislation, has committed to continue using existing ‘California Resources Agency' logos, forms and other insignia until it they are exhausted or rendered unusable. With this commitment, the Resources Agency believes, ‘the bill will have little or no fiscal impact.'"
However, in a huge agency, even minor costs like changing the signs on offices and redesigning printed materials could add up to $50,000 or more. In his letter to Florez, Chrisman cited several other agency name changes that used a phase-in strategy to minimize costs. This included CAL FIRE in 2006, Health and Human Services in 1998, and Business, Transportation and Housing in 1980. In most of these cases, though, the change accompanied a larger-scale reorganization than those called for in SB 1464.
Nava's staff said that while there would be minor administrative costs to their bill, overall merging the agencies would save money. The amendments enacted Monday made several technical changes, including one that would ensure that the new Emergency Services Agency would have oversight power over other state agencies. New language also sidestepped a contentious disagreement of the definition of "terrorism."
Craig DeLuz with Jeffries staff said they're also quite conscious of keeping costs down. Their bill reorganizes several agencies, but doesn't actually change names or move any personnel around.
"It didn't seem to make any sense to have all these first responders in different agencies," DeLuz said. "There will be some cost. We believe it will be minimal."