Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/25/2004 01:07 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 341-DIVE FISHERY MANAGEMENT ASSESSMENT CO-CHAIR DAHLSTROM announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 341, "An Act relating to the dive fishery management assessment." Number 1988 TIM BARRY, Staff to Representative Bill Williams, Alaska State Legislature, speaking on behalf of Representative Williams, sponsor, told the committee HB 341 is a "housekeeping measure" requested by the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association (SARDFA) to provide more flexibility in its operations. He turned attention to a fact sheet provided by SARDFA, and explained that SARDFA members pay a tax that is based on the percentage of the value of their catch. He said the revenue from this tax is spent on managing the various dive fisheries that members are involved with. Mr. Barry said under current state law, association members elect to tax themselves by species at a rate of 1, 3, 5, or 7 percent of the value of the landings in a given dive fishery. Number 1857 JULIE DECKER, Executive Director, Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association, testified. She stated that this bill is mainly a housekeeping measure. Members are currently allowed to assess themselves at either 1,3,5, or 7 percent and would also like to be given the ability to assess themselves at 2, 4, or 6 percent, which is what this bill would do, she said. Currently, she said the sea cucumber and the geoduck fisheries assess themselves at 5 percent, and the sea urchin fishery is at 7 percent. Ms. Decker said she believes the original reason why the bill had to specify the 1, 3, 5, or 7 percentages is because the legislature is the only body that has the authority to tax and it couldn't give that authority in a broad sense to SARDFA. However, she said the legislature could give SARDFA the authority to vote and tax itself at a [specific percentage amount]. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked Ms. Decker if $66,695 is SARDFA's administrative budget. MS. DECKER said correct but she thought that amount was from a previous year. She said the [administrative budget] is in the $50,000 range each year. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked Ms. Decker if SARDFA is only trying to raise the amount of money needed for its administrative budget. MS. DECKER said SARDFA is not looking to change anything with this legislation aside from the ability in the future to possibly change the rate that SARDFA assesses itself at. She said the rate at which SARDFA assesses itself equates to the [total value of assessments for each fiscal year] and the total amounts are generated by the percents, which are currently 1, 3, 5, and 7. Ms. Decker said SARDFA would like the ability to do 2,4, or 6 percent if it needs to. She said currently, in the sea cucumber fishery, in particular, SARDFA has a little bit of an excess at 5 percent, but if it lowers the assessment down to 3 percent it would be a 40 percent reduction and SARDFA would be a little bit short. Ms. Decker said SARDFA is trying to foresee that it may be able to reduce it down to 4 percent and be just right. Number 1665 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF asked Ms. Decker if SARDFA currently assesses itself at 1, 3, 5, or 7 percent. MS. DECKER said SARDFA has the ability to vote to tax itself at those percentages. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF asked Ms. Decker how the percentages would be adjusted with the passage of the bill. MS. DECKER said there was talk among divers in the sea cucumber industry that they may look at reducing the assessment to 4 percent, if they had that ability. She remarked, "We don't have that ability, so we're trying to look forward and ... see that coming." She said the geoduck fishery is also talking about increasing its assessment but if the assessment needs to be changed, it has to come from a petition from within membership or within the permit holders, and they always have that ability to change the assessment if they would like. Number 1584 REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE directed attention to page 1, line 8, and she asked who determines the election. MS. DECKER explained that the association would hold an election and all of the permit holders within each fishery who have legitimate permits would be able to vote. Number 1539 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said it looked as though the executive director's salary is half of SARDFA's budget, and he asked how that salary is determined. MS. DECKER said every year SARDFA's board of directors signs a contract with the current executive director and every year that is up for change. She said the budget within the administration is just the "nuts and bolts," and SARDFA has a budget outside of that for having contracts with people to do (indisc.) work and PSD [prevention of significant deterioration] sampling, water sampling, and other projects. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said he was curious to see how much money SARDFA is spending. He asked how much money SARDFA actually spends. MS. DECKER turned attention to the SARDFA handout entitled "Dive Fisheries Fact Sheet - Corrected," and she said number six is the assessment that SARDFA collects each year. Number 1426 REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH moved to report HB 341 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HB 341 was reported from the House Resources Standing Committee.