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Legislators vote to split, rename culture department

Published: Monday, Feb. 13 2012 8:37 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A long-simmering controversy over splitting up the Utah Department of Community and Culture continued Monday as a House committee considered a bill to do just that. 

HB139 would save Utah $1.3 million and further streamline state government, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, told the House Workforce Services committee, which voted 5-1 to pass the measure on to the full House.

It would give DCC's Division of Housing and Community Development to the Department of Workforce Services, and re-name the remainder the Department of Heritage and Arts.

Opponents told legislators that the proposal would cause a clash of bureaucratic cultures that would endanger the housing division's mission to work with developers to build housing for the poor. 

"You are further jeopardizing an already marginalized population," Louis Fazio of the Coalition of People with Disabilities told legislators.

"It doesn't work and it won't work," added Tim Funk of Crossroads Urban Center. "I think you would have a very bad marriage."

Harper said the bill would save the state $400,000 by moving DCC from a leased building infested with bats. Further savings would come from the need for fewer employees and software sharing between the housing division and DWS. 

Under questioning, Harper conceded that software could be shared whether the two merge or not. "I guess software is software, it can be put on different servers," he said.

Michael Mower, Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Gary Herbert — who supports the measure — told legislators that the state has already decided not to renew the building lease, whether the bill passes or not.

With the proposal, the renamed DCC would move into the state-owned Rio Grande building in Salt Lake City. It would focus on arts, museums, libraries, ethnic affairs and history.

The bill stems from a study mandated by the Legislature in 2011 to decide the best way to re-structure DCC. 

E-mail: lbrubaker@desnews.com

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