73 – 4 VOTE IS A DISPLAY OF BILL’S STRONG BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT IN THE LEGISLATURE
SACRAMENTO–Late Tuesday evening the California State Assembly passed Senate Bill 1657 (SB 1657) by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote of 73 – 4. The vote reflected the bi-partisan support that the California Regional Trade Office has held since its initial introduction by Senator Jack Scott (D-Pasadena) in the State Senate. After clearing the Senate and moving onto the Assembly–the bill’s progress was hindered by the State’s budget deficit problem. Through the grassroots efforts of the ANCA-WR–SB 1657 cleared two key committee votes en route to a full state Assembly vote.
The Trade Office Bill passed overwhelmingly in the State Assembly with over 9 members of the State Assembly voicing their support for the legislation on the Assembly floor. SB 1657 aims to establish a California Regional Trade Office in the Republic of Armenia to facilitate trade and commerce between the two entities. The State of California currently has trade offices in Germany–United Kingdom–Hong Kong–Indonesia–Israel–Mexico–South Africa–Taiwan and Japan. Previous California trade offices had been criticized by some legislators for having a lack of accountability and no means of determining the effectiveness of the office. Unlike the current trade offices–theRegional Trade office in Yerevan would provide a study–by March 2005–of the office’s economic impact on trade–investment and tourism.
"It is good for the Armenian community and all Californians. It is a mutually beneficial piece of legislation. I admire the leadership in the Armenian community who made this possible and the innovation of the ANC for finding ways to make this work at this time." Commented Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) who spoke in support of the bill prior to the full Assembly vote.
Last week ANCA-WR Chairman Steven Dadaian and Board member Berdj Karapetian met with California State Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Los Angeles) in Sacramento to discuss the status of SB 1657 in the State Assembly and other issues about strengthening the economic ties between California and Armenia. Dadaian and Karapetian conveyed to Speaker Wesson the importance of the Trade Office in relation to California’s efforts to seek new markets and Armenia’s economic growth.
In addition to the meetings held in Sacramento–over a dozen local ANC’s from all over California have been working with the ANCA-WR office in contacting their state legislators to urge them to support SB 1657. The efforts of the statewide grassroots effort culminated in the SB 1657 vote and passage by the State Assembly Appropriations Committee.
A key element in Senator Scott’s bill is that the Trade Office would serve Armenia and surrounding Eastern European and Southwestern Asian independent neighbors. The aim of the proposal is for California to promote trade relations in developing areas of the world that show emerging market potential. The area is perceived by economists as an "untapped resource."
"Today’s vote show’s that there is bi-partisan support for legislation establishing a California Regional Trade Office in Armenia. It is important to note that legislators in both parties understand the necessity of establishing a trade office in this region. This is the only region in the world where California does not have a trade presence," commented Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Glendale)–who was instrumental in the passage of SB 1657 in the State Assembly. "It is a fortuitous time to expand into this region where many of the economies are experiencing growth and expansion." he continued.
Republican members of the Assembly also spoke in favor of SB 1657. "I am grateful that the legislature finally saw the importance of opening up trade for California businesses to a region that is home to 350 million consumers hungry for our products," said Assemblyman Briggs. "This will expand an already close relationship that California has with our friends in Armenia and throughout the Caucus region."
Assembly member Frommer also commended the ANC for coming up with innovative ways of addressing the issue of the Trade Office particularly at a time when the State has been facing a significant budget deficit. "The ANC’s ability to work with members of both parties demonstrates their ability to accomplish such important goals and is truly admirable," added the Assembly member.
"We are excited that SB 1657 has passed this important hurdle. This is a historic step forward towards strengthening the economic ties between California and Armenia and we applaud the State legislature for passing this bill," said Steven J. Dadaian–Chairman of the ANCA-WR.
"The passage of SB 1657 is an exciting step forward in the process of creating a realistic working relationship between California and Armenia in the areas of trade and commerce. This office will benefit thousands of businesses in California and help bolster the growing economy of Armenia," added Ardashes Kassakhian Director of Government Relations for the ANCA-WR " We are on the verge of seeing the beginning of a new era of economic cooperation between these two entities. The ANCA-WR is committed to making this relationship work."
ASB 1657 would allow private as well as public investment through the trade office.
Commenting on the bill’s passage–Senator Jack Scott said–"This trade office is a common sense advantage for our state. California gets to export and to expose–its entrepreneurial expertise–goods and high-tech products to a region of the world with tremendous potential."
He also added "California currently has no presence in the region–and it’s an area that wants to work closely with us on a host of trade–business–education and cultural activities"
The Tuesday August 27 edition of the Pasadena Star News published an editorial calling on members of the State Legislature to support Sen. Scott’s bill and cited ANCA-WR sources in detailing the areas where the trade office would have the greatest impact in both Armenia and California: tourism–biotech and hi-tech industries.
The bill now awaits approval by Governor Gray Davis.