Senate Bill 127, Customer Service, Economic Development and Transportation began as a benign bill that sought to align economic development regions and make them uniform and equitable. The bill languished in committee for three months before being heard on May 8, 2013. That’s when it was altered significantly.
The bill’s original intent of maintaining economic boards was scrapped and replaced with a plan to eliminate all economic boards and transfer administrative authority solely to the Department of Commerce. The bill repeals all general statutes pertaining to economic development commissions. All groups affected—Community Colleges, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Department of Commerce—will be required to maintain one employee in each of the newly named “Prosperity Zone” offices that will be located within each of the seven zones.
What remains to be seen is how this will affect Workforce Development. It has been anticipated that major changes will be made to the system and the plans for those changes were expected to be rolled out at the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee (JLPEOC) meeting on May 20, 2013. However, Workforce Development was not discussed and is not even on the committee’s agenda for the coming year. One could surmise that the elimination of the economic development boards would negate the need for House Bill 55 if the new plan puts all administration of the system under new management.