Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/07/2004 06:30 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 282-RESTAURANTS ETC DISCLOSE WILD/FARMED FISH                                                                              
Number 0200                                                                                                                     
PAULA  CADIENTE,  Staff  to  Senator   Kim  Elton,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  presented  SB  282  on  behalf  of  Senator  Elton,                                                               
sponsor of the  bill.  She explained that the  bill requires food                                                               
service  establishments  that  sell  to  the  general  public  to                                                               
identify whether  fish products  are wild or  farmed.   State law                                                               
now  provides   for  labeling  in  retail   grocery  stores,  she                                                               
reported.    She termed  the  bill  a consumer  awareness  choice                                                               
issue,  especially given  scientific and  popular press  on toxin                                                               
loads and  other problems with  industrial fish.  More  than half                                                               
the  fish  consumed   at  the  consumer  level   is  consumed  in                                                               
restaurants.   These  consumers deserve  the same  "heads up"  as                                                               
shoppers in the  grocery store, she said.  This  bill came out of                                                               
the work  of the Joint  Legislative Salmon Task Force,  which was                                                               
comprised   of  processors,   harvesters,  public   members,  and                                                               
legislators,  she  reported.   The  House  Special  Committee  on                                                               
Fisheries moved [SB 282] out  this morning with unanimous do-pass                                                               
recommendations, she concluded.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  asked how  the fish would  be identified                                                               
in restaurants.                                                                                                                 
MS. CADIENTE replied that they could  put a little sticky note on                                                               
the menu or list on the menu whether the fish is wild or farmed.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG  asked  if  the bill  specifies  how  it                                                               
should be done.                                                                                                                 
MS. CADIENTE said it does not.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked how  long the restaurants will be                                                               
allowed to take to implement this policy.                                                                                       
MS.  CADIENTE replied  that there  is  no effective  date on  the                                                               
Number 0368                                                                                                                     
ERNESTA  BALLARD,  Commissioner,   Office  of  the  Commissioner,                                                               
Department  of Environmental  Conservation  (DEC), reported  that                                                               
the  sponsor of  the bill  has  been advised  of several  wording                                                               
changes in  the form  of amendments that  would make  it possible                                                               
for  DEC to  implement  this  law in  a  fashion consistent  with                                                               
existing  statute  and  regulation.    She  said  that  they  are                                                               
essential to the  efficiency and effectiveness of this  law.  She                                                               
mentioned a  fiscal note which has  been zeroed out and  the fact                                                               
that  without funding,  DEC has  no resources  to implement  this                                                               
Number 0433                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM asked, "If  there are no funds available                                                               
and  there  is  not a  date  in  place  for  anyone to  meet  the                                                               
requirements, I'm assuming  that we're hoping everyone  goes on a                                                               
good neighbor policy and just does it."                                                                                         
COMMISSIONER BALLARD  responded that with  no funds "we  would be                                                               
unable to  promulgate regulations which would  advise restaurants                                                               
how to comply."                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD inquired how much the fiscal note was.                                                                  
COMMISSIONER BALLARD said  the fiscal note was  $77,200 the first                                                               
year and $69,300 the second year.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked why the note was so high.                                                                         
COMMISSIONER  BALLARD   replied  that   the  fiscal   note  would                                                               
accommodate  one environmental  health  technician  who would  be                                                               
hired to implement the requirements  of this bill.  That person's                                                               
job would be to collect the  menus to determine the accuracy of a                                                               
statement that  the fish is fresh  or farmed, to inspect,  and to                                                               
enforce  compliance.    She  reported  that  there  are  several-                                                               
thousand  food  establishments  that  would be  covered  by  this                                                               
regulation, and it would not be a simple task.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG   suggested  using  e-mail   for  public                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE   CRAWFORD  said   it  seems   to  him   that  the                                                               
enforcement would be from individual  Alaskans who did not see [a                                                               
label] on the menu.                                                                                                             
COMMISSIONER BALLARD  reported that the fiscal  note was prepared                                                               
by [DEC] staff  who have for many years  enforced restaurant food                                                               
requirements  and  who  understand  the workload  that  would  be                                                               
required   by   both   customer   complaints   and   implementing                                                               
regulations,  as well  as enforcement  and  inspection to  ensure                                                               
that this law is complied with.                                                                                                 
Number 0654                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO   asked  if  it  is   DEC's  obligation  to                                                               
determine if the fish is properly  identified on the menu.  Could                                                               
deceit be investigated, he asked.                                                                                               
COMMISSIONER BALLARD replied  that deceit is a  possibility.  The                                                               
food  safety legislation,  which passed  both the  House and  the                                                               
Senate  this  week,  extends  the  protections  of  the  consumer                                                               
protection attorney to this industry  and to this subject matter.                                                               
There would be  a requirement for [DEC] staff to  be aware of the                                                               
deception and then the coordination  with the consumer protection                                                               
attorney  to see  if fraud  and deceit  were carried  out.   More                                                               
problematic is that many of  the suppliers in restaurants may not                                                               
know what  the source of  their purchased wholesale  fish product                                                               
is,  she  reported.   She  said  that  would  require DEC  to  be                                                               
involved  in determining  that a  statement or  assertion that  a                                                               
product was fresh or farmed was accurate.                                                                                       
CHAIR ANDERSON closed public testimony.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GUTTENBERG pointed  out that  he heard  this bill                                                               
earlier  today in  House Special  Committee on  Fisheries and  it                                                               
seems like good public policy.   He said that the fiscal note was                                                               
an issue that the committee took  up and decided that DEC had the                                                               
discretion to  decide whether or not  to implement this law.   He                                                               
said  it is  important  for  health and  economic  reasons to  go                                                               
forward  with this  bill.   He  termed this  bill as  one of  the                                                               
better bills  to come out  of the [Joint Legislative  Salmon Task                                                               
Force] because  it is good  for Alaskans  economically, socially,                                                               
and for health reasons.                                                                                                         
Number 0798                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG  moved to  report CSSB 282(RES)  out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal  notes.   There being  no objection,  CSSB 282  (RES), was                                                               
reported out of the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.                                                              

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