Legislature(1995 - 1996)
01/30/1996 03:03 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 366 - MARINE SAFETY EDUCATION PROGRAMS CO-CHAIR BUNDE said the only bill to be heard today would be HB 366, which had been in the House HESS committee before. He asked Representative Austerman, sponsor of HB 366, to address the committee substitute. REPRESENTATIVE ALAN AUSTERMAN, sponsor, commented he would like his staff person to come forward to explain the committee substitute. Number 144 AMY DAUGHTERY, Staff to Representative Alan Austerman, said that following the last hearing on HB 366, which was before the House HESS Committee, they discovered that only 2,000 people out of the 7,000 people trained last year by AMSEA were commercial fishermen. She explained the language "commercial fishermen" was removed from Section 2, subsection (b) because the training benefits more than just commercial fishermen. It benefits the public at-large, children, as well as commercial fisherman and they felt it was a mispresentation as to whom is actually trained by AMSEA. CO-CHAIR BUNDE noted that Representative Brice arrived at 3:05 p.m. Number 225 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY made a motion to adopt Work Draft 9-LS1333\C as the working document. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered. Number 250 REPRESENTATIVE GARY DAVIS referred to subparagraph (b) which states, "This Act does not create a dedicated fund." and commented he had not seen this language before. He asked if this was something new being done with draft legislation. REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN answered he wasn't certain, but thought perhaps it was for clarification purposes. CO-CHAIR BUNDE commented it was his understanding that in discussing the fishermen's fund, this language was to clarify that the legislation did not create a new dedicated fund, which is prohibited by the constitution. Number 322 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY thought that was indeed the point: A dedicated fund could not be created by the legislature, even if they wanted to. He has seen a legal opinion that basically stated if the legislature were to start tinkering with existing dedicated funds, funds that were in existence prior to statehood, there was a risk of convoluting or destroying the dedicated nature of those pre-statehood funds. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS remarked that Representative Vezey's comments had shed some light on the rationale for the inclusion of the language, because this program was in existence at the time of statehood. Number 380 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN stressed this does not get into the dedicated fund at all. It uses the interest only; funds that go into the general fund. Number 425 REPRESENTATIVE NORMAN ROKEBERG asked Representative Austerman to clarify the existence of a federal statute that required this type of training and that was one of the reasons for this legislation. REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN answered he was not positive what the federal law was, however, he was aware that national hearings were held in reference to safety at sea and the Coast Guard did come up with regulations that required some safety aspects. He added he was not sure if there was a federal mandate. Number 500 MARK JOHNSON, Chief, Community Health & Emergency Medical Services Section, Division of Public Health, Department of Health & Social Services, testified there is the Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Act, passed in 1988, which requires safety equipment and training on commercial fishing vessels, depending on where they fish; in other words, the further offshore, the greater the requirements. He added the Coast Guard does have regulations on that. The particular training provided by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) meets the requirements under the Coast Guard regulations. He added that the AMSEA training programs address broader groups than just commercial fishers. Number 566 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked Mr. Johnson to assume the amount of money will grow and to speculate on how it might be used for people using the waters for recreational purposes, people living around the water, et cetera. He commented on the incredibly high drowning rate and very poor water safety record in Alaska. MR. JOHNSON said it was his understanding that Alaska was the only state in the United States that doesn't have a boating safety act. Alaska has the highest drowning rate in the country; it actually competes with motor vehicle crashes as a cause of injury deaths. He commented they have tried to help AMSEA and other agencies with small amounts of temporary grants that run for two, three or four years and then stop. He thought AMSEA was looking for a more stable source of funding and added their targets are somewhat limited depending on their source of funding. For example, sometimes their target would be commercial fishing groups because they would get money from the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) or National Marines Fisheries, and other times they would target children because their funding source was EMS for children federal funds. He pointed out there is a wide range of groups of people who need water safety training; rural, recreational, commercial, etc., and AMSEA has tried within their limited funding sources to address all of those groups. He said AMSEA has a very good reputation in terms of quality and their ability to leverage funds and get a lot of people trained with a small amount of money. It is their intent to do more training for the recreational community, but they have been limited because of their funding sources. CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked Mr. Johnson if it was his view that AMSEA would be reaching out for more training in the recreational area if more money was available. MR. JOHNSON said that was his understanding. Number 700 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN said he wanted to make sure that everyone was aware that Alaska does not have a safe boating act, and this training basically takes the place of that. He spoke of the accomplishments of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association over the last 10 years which include marine safety training for 40,000 members of the public; 2,500 were fishermen and the rest has been directed toward water safety for the rest of the people in the state. MR. JOHNSON explained to committee members that a few years ago they looked at the number of people dying in boating and drowning accidents versus other forms of death, such as deaths from motor vehicles. At that time there was virtually no money, at least from the state, going into this area compared to the amount of money directed toward trying to make our highways safe. He said the Coast Guard is obviously trying to address this problem, but they are spread very thin and do not have a presence all over the state. In Mr. Johnson's view, AMSEA has done an outstanding job of reaching out across the state to places where there is no one else addressing the problem and the statistics are beginning to show that it is making a difference. REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN said he had been led to believe the Governor has placed $80,000 in his budget for this program. He indicated they would be going before the Finance Committee to fight for the remainder of the money to keep this program solvent. He believes AMSEA is a good program, it should be continued, and expanded if at all possible. Representative Austerman said the money coming into the fishermen's fund, which generates the interest earnings, is from the fishermen themselves and they have no opposition to using the money for this program. CO-CHAIR BUNDE encouraged Representative Austerman to fight the good fight and wanted to publicly thank the commercial fishermen for wanting to help public safety. CO-CHAIR BUNDE closed the meeting to public testimony. Number 863 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY made a motion to move CSHB 366(HES) from the House HESS committee to the House Transportation Committee with individual recommendations and zero fiscal note. CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked if there was any objection. Hearing none, CSHB 366(HES) passed out of the House HESS Committee with individual recommendations and zero fiscal note.