Legislature(1997 - 1998)
05/01/1997 01:15 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SSHB 243 - EXTEND CURRENT SUBSISTENCE LAW CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN announced the next order of business was Sponsor Substitute for House Bill No. 243, "An Act delaying the repeal of the current law regarding subsistence use of fish and game; amending the effective date of secs. 3 and 5, ch. 1, SSSLA 1992; and providing for an effective date." He said this bill simply extends the existing subsistence law. Number 2301 REPRESENTATIVE ALAN AUSTERMAN, Chairman of the House Special Committee on Fisheries, which sponsored the bill, came forward to testify. He said Co-Chairman Ogan had stated the extent of this bill, in that it extends the effective date of the subsistence laws to 1999. Number 2317 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN said he has concerns about "piece-mealing" the subsistence issue and somewhat side-stepping it. However, until there is a cohesive plan, it may behoove them to move this. Number 2357 REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS noted that extending the 1992 law is something the legislature has done for the past two sessions. This just gets them through for the next two years. Number 2376 REPRESENTATIVE REGGIE JOULE indicated he has heard that the majority is working on the larger subsistence issue. He suggested extending the current law is probably necessary until something else is done. Otherwise, it reverts to the 1986 law. He asked: Would we be able to repeal this if we came to a resolution? CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN affirmed they could do so, provided they had the votes. He asked whether Representative Joule is comfortable with the 1992 subsistence law as it was written. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE asked whether that question specifically related to SSHB 243. CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN said yes. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE stated, "I would be in favor of extending this. In terms of the larger issue of subsistence, of course, I think that's a whole different discussion. But in context of this particular extension, yeah, ... I think we can go ahead and extend this bill." Number 2461 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN noted that the bill sunsets October 1. TAPE 97-48, SIDE B Number 0006 REPRESENTATIVE IRENE NICHOLIA suggested taking this up after the proposed special session. CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN responded that although he agrees in principle, he is worried that if there is no special session and the law sunsets, they will go back to the old law. He asked whether they should consider repealing the old law and staying with the more current one. Number 0034 REPRESENTATIVE FRED DYSON suggested there are too many variables to count on this being unnecessary. Unless they want to go to the "significantly monumental task of rewriting or repealing," the only question is: Do we want the 1986 subsistence rules to go into effect in October, or do we want to do this? Number 0110 DICK BISHOP, Executive Director, Alaska Outdoor Council, came forward to testify. He said the council supports SSHB 243. He said, "The whole matter of how to address the subsistence issue is certainly in a state of flux, as you know better than most. While a new strategy is being sought, we think it is essential that state law retain the statutory provisions regulating subsistence and nonsubsistence uses that were enacted in 1992. Principal among these includes the nonsubsistence areas, the definition of `reasonable opportunity' as it relates to subsistence uses, a systematic process by which the Boards of Fisheries and Game decide upon subsistence use and other use regulations, and the definitions of `customary and traditional' and `customary trade.' Those were important provisions that were put in the '92 law, and we feel they should remain." MR. BISHOP stated, "We support HB 243 even though, as the discussion has already indicated, we recognize that the existing state law relating to subsistence uses of fish and game is imperfect, and you are looking at possible changes. We see the extension of provisions of the '92 law as necessary for conservation and reasonable allocation while the whole issue is undergoing yet another review." MR. BISHOP continued, "The Alaska Outdoor Council strongly supports personal consumptive uses of fish and game and subsistence lifestyles. However, we have stated that we do not believe that a constitutional or statutory priority is necessary to adequately provide for subsistence uses, and we have consistently opposed an arbitrary and discriminatory closed-class priority based on zip code, culture or ethnicity. Nevertheless, the council has been willing to compromise in order to support ... Governor Hickel's bill in 1992 and again, recently, in support of HJR 21. As you know, Governor Hickel's bill did not pass the legislature due to opposition from the Alaska Federation of Natives." MR. BISHOP concluded, "In summary, the council is willing to support SSHB 243 as an interim measure while needed changes to federal law and, if necessary, to state law or our constitution, are considered. However, a one-year extension is probably preferable to the two-year that is listed in the bill, just to keep it kind of warm. Frankly, the council continues to be perplexed and frustrated by the widespread apparent indifference to the constitutional provisions providing for equal rights and equal protection with respect to fish and game uses. That indifference to the protection of individual rights, upon which the United States and the state of Alaska were founded, tests our patience and our willingness to consider compromises which diminish or revoke those provisions in Alaska's constitution. Although this issue addresses uses of fish and game, it is in fact an issue of civil rights, and we don't know how long we're willing to continue to be willing to compromise on these issues that are so basic to people's individual rights and protections." Number 0262 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN asked whether the committee had questions for Mary Pete from the Division of Subsistence or Ron Somerville, technical consultant to the leadership of the House and Senate. Both Ms. Pete and Mr. Somerville came forward to the witness table. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON requested their opinions on whether this bill should pass. Number 0287 MARY C. PETE, Director, Division of Subsistence, Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), stated support for SSHB 243. She said as committee discussion shows, unless there is another way to address subsistence, this bill would keep consistency in how the subsistence law is implemented. It retains important provisions relating to nonsubsistence use areas, as well as definitions that the public has become accustomed to and that have eased the board's work in managing subsistence hunting and fishing. Number 0324 REPRESENTATIVE BEVERLY MASEK asked Ms. Pete to expound on the issue of what the public has become accustomed to. She asked whether that is dealing with customary, traditional or cultural aspects, for example. Number 0331 MS. PETE said definitions put in place by the 1992 law are key in implementing subsistence hunting and fishing; one is "customary and traditional" and the other is "customary trade and barter." She believes the stricter definitions of the latter in the 1992 bill provide a wider sense of comfort regarding subsistence statewide, primarily in the commercial fishing industry. Number 0364 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked for clarification about what the public has become accustomed to. MS. PETE said if this bill did not pass, on October 1, 1997, the state would revert to the 1986 law, parts of which are unconstitutional under the state constitution. She said, "The flip-flop that the state has taken in terms of subsistence management, especially since 1986, I think has frustrated users in the state, because some years, it's rural residency; some years it isn't. Some years, we have nonrural areas; some years we don't. And the 1992 law established nonsubsistence areas, which essentially mirror the nonrural areas prior to ... 1992. And another flip-flop, I think, will just lead the public to assume that the state really can't manage subsistence, that there's been so much flux and unrest regarding subsistence, that, you know, this is just another example of where we haven't been able to maintain consistency until the issue is resolved." MS. PETE advised that the Governor has a resolution, HJR 10, to provide a constitutional amendment ballot to put the constitution in line with ANILCA, which is one option for the legislature. She said the other option is the Lieutenant Governor's three-tiered package. Number 0455 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK responded that Governor Hickel had worked on a plan, to which the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) said no. In addition, the AFN stand on Lieutenant Governor Ulmer's plan was a "no-net loss policy." Representative Masek mentioned HJR 21, which she sponsored and which would divert the problem back to ANILCA, where the problem began. She said right now, the state does not have control over defining customary, traditional or rural preference. She asked what Ms. Pete envisions as a way of resolving this. Number 0521 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA stated what was in front of the committee was to extend the 1992 law, not to discuss visions for resolving the subsistence question. Number 0539 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN called a brief at-ease at 2:17 p.m. He called the meeting back to order at 2:18 p.m., saying he would allow Representative Masek some latitude. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON suggested witnesses should feel free to opt out when questions are expanded beyond the exact bill on the table. Number 0610 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked Ms. Pete's opinion on how to resolve this problem if the bill did not pass. MS. PETE said state law defines "customary and traditional" and "customary trade and barter." She explained, "And as you well know, we can't enact rural preferences, so we did have a definition of `rural' as well, prior to the McDowell decision. So the state has defined those terms, and we've used those definitions to implement the law. You know, certainly, the federal government, they manage subsistence on federal lands; they have their own definitions. But we have defined those terms." Number 0681 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN read from state statute, saying, "Customary and traditional means noncommercial, long-term and consistent taking of, use of and reliance on fish and game". He noted it goes on from there. He said, "Customary trade, a limited noncommercial exchange for minimal amounts of cash, as restricted by the appropriate board of fish and game resources." He said it does not go into birds or fur-bearers. Co-Chairman Ogan noted that HJR 21 calls for Alaskans to decide what those definitions are. He asked Ms. Pete whether, under current law, she finds that residents using subsistence are comfortable with these definitions and whether these definitions of "rural" and "customary and traditional" work. Number 0731 MS. PETE said they work in that the ADF&G has not heard of problems with them. There has been no public outcry as the boards have used those definitions in managing fish and game, although probably not everyone is happy with them. Number 0754 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON made a motion to adopt SSHB 243 for discussion and asked unanimous consent. There being no objection, it was so ordered. Number 0795 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON made a motion to amend SSHB 243 on page 1, line 7, by changing "1999" to "1998". He said that would place responsibility on the current legislature to conclude the work on this issue to the extent practical and possible. He asked unanimous consent. REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN advised that he had no problem with it. Number 0856 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS asked whether it would need to be brought up again in 1998, then. CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON said absolutely; that is his intention. He stated, "If we don't amend this, if we leave it to 1999, it essentially gives this legislature an opportunity to walk away from the subject. If we put it in 1998, it forces this legislature to deal with it in the next session, and I believe that that is our responsibility." Number 0894 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN concurred. He asked if there was any objection to the motion. There being none, the amendment was adopted. Number 0919 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON made a motion to move SSHB 243, as amended, from the committee with individual recommendations and zero fiscal note. He asked unanimous consent. CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN asked if there was an objection. There being none, CSSSHB 243(RES) moved from the House Resources Standing Committee.