Thursday, February 28, 2008

House committee turns down merger

The House Environment Committee turned down the merger (HB2584) of AZGS and ADMMR by a vote of 4-3 yesterday.

Chairman Ray Barnes refused to allow the bill sponsor, Rep. Theresa Ulmer (right), to introduce an amended version of the bill changing the name of the AZGS to the Arizona Bureau of Mines and Geology. He also would not let her explain the reason for making the name change at this time.

The inclusion of the word "mines" had been the number one objection to the merger from many ADMMR supporters. However, since the time Rep. Ulmer offered to make the name change, ADMMR Director Madan Singh and Board Chairman P.K. Rana Medhi have repeatedly said the name is just "cosmetic," "window dressing," or "meaningless." With that no longer an issue, Rep. Ulmer agreed with the Chairman's proposal to move forward with the original bill.

At the hearing, opponents of the merger claimed that despite language that leaves the ADMMR mission completely intact, the real intent of the bill was to eliminate the agency's functions as part of an anti-mining agenda.

In a surprisingly frank admission, Madan also said that he expected the Legislature would eliminate them completely if they were included in the "sunset review" (Legislative review of state agencies effectiveness and usefulness) that is regularly scheduled for AZGS in 3 years.

The last Legislative proposal to eliminate ADMMR was in 2003. Previously, Legislative bodies recommended zeroing out the ADMMR budget in 1985, 1986, 1991, and 1995. Funding for the ADMMR Tucson office was eliminated in 1989. In 1999, the Legislature proposed eliminating the mineral information section of ADMMR but retaining the museum. The department survived these attempts but with reduced staff levels and capabilities.

The Governor's current proposal to merge ADMMR into AZGS was intended to provide greater security and stability to that agency so they aren't constantly in threat of closing down or having their budget zeroed out. She also expected that AZGS would bring a more entrepreneurial business model to ADMMR operations.

With yesterday's committee vote, the merger proposal is dead.

No comments:

Post a Comment