Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
02/14/2006 09:00 AM JUDICIARY
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HB 107-HUNTING/FISHING INTERFERENCE 10:11:48 AM CHAIR RALPH SEEKINS announced CSHB 107(FIN) to be up for consideration. JIM POUND, Legislative Aide to Representative Jay Ramras, introduced the bill for the sponsor. He informed the committee they would be hearing SCS CSHB 107(RES). Currently a person who purposefully interrupts another person from hunting, fishing, trapping, or viewing wildlife in Alaska can be charged with a crime but the courts are not permitted to grant damages for the actual attorney fees. The bill would correct that error and would send a message to those who attempt to prevent people from earning a living off of the wilderness of Alaska. MR. POUND urged the committee to support the bill and offered to answer questions. 10:13:29 AM SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS asked Mr. Pound for some examples in relation to page 2, lines 4-5. MR. POUND informed the committee that it is existing language in the statutes. CHAIR SEEKINS stated AS 11.81.900(a)(1) defines intention. He read from the statute. (1) a person acts "intentionally" with respect to a result described by a provision of law defining an offense when the person's conscious objective is to cause that result; when intentionally causing a particular result is an element of an offense, that intent need not be the person's only objective; He said this refers to a person intentionally, not accidentally doing the act. SENATOR GUESS posed the situation of combat fishing. She asked whether it was the intent of the bill to charge someone with a crime if they step in front of a person in order to catch a fish. MR. POUND said no. The intent is to prevent people from intentionally interrupting the viewing opportunity of a photographer or the hunting opportunity of a hunter. 10:16:22 AM CHAIR SEEKINS noted some examples of the intent would be a person stealing traps or destroying a viewing platform. SENATOR CHARLIE HUGGINS said he has heard of organized groups of people with loud speakers and bells interrupting others from lawfully viewing or hunting wildlife. He asked Mr. Pound whether that often occurs in Alaska. MR. POUND could not cite a case of that happening. SENATOR HUGGINS opined about anti-war demonstrations in cemeteries. 10:18:27 AM CHAIR SEEKINS mentioned that trappers who place their traps closer to urban areas frequently find their traps rendered ineffective by others. Under HB 107 it would be a violation of law, he stated. MR. POUND corrected him and said that was already against the law. HB 107 adds language to current statute for recouping full attorney fees and reasonable associated costs. 10:19:14 AM SENATOR FRENCH asked whether there were other instances in Alaska law that allow for full recovery of attorney fees. MR. POUND said eminent domain allows for full recovery of reasonable fees. SENATOR FRENCH countered in the normal course of law it would be an exception. MR. POUND agreed. SENATOR FRENCH asked Mr. Pound whether he was concerned about encouraging people to sue one another over incidental disturbances of wildlife. MR. POUND said the issues would grow as the state experiences population growth. The bill is an opportunity to nip the behavior in the bud. 10:20:45 AM CHAIR SEEKINS clarified the bill addresses specific intentional acts and does not refer to the incidental. SENATOR FRENCH asked whether one combat fisherman who stepped in front of another fisherman to land a salmon on the Russian River would be intentionally interfering with that other fisherman. MR. POUND said he did not believe that the bill would be taken to that extreme. SENATOR FRENCH begged to differ. 10:22:25 AM SENATOR FRENCH said there are instances that are trivial and should never go forward as lawsuits but they do. Combat fisherman do purposefully and intentionally step in front of others to land their fish. He expressed concern that the allowance of full attorney fees and reasonable costs would encourage people to file trivial lawsuits. MR. POUND advised the committee of a case in Fairbanks where a superior court judge awarded Eugene Johnson punitive damages on his claim that another individual broke state law by freeing an injured wolf in a trap line. The decision awarded Mr. Johnson close to $200,000. 10:24:15 AM CHAIR SEEKINS said he was familiar with the case. A member of Friends of Animals clipped off a snare and allowed the wolf to escape. It was a deliberate intervention in a legal activity. SENATOR GUESS observed that Alaskans take combat fishing to another level. She added that a commercial fisherman moving a boat into another fisherman's area could initiate a lawsuit as well. She wondered whether the bill would open up that type of situation. MR. POUND responded the bill is referring to language already in existing statute. There is not a trend of that happening in commercial or sport fishing. HB 107 intends to change court rule and allow the judge to give full restitution when the case comes to civil court. 10:25:58 AM SENATOR GUESS countered page 2 line 4 does not speak about the court. It adds a paragraph relating to the intentional act. MR. POUND said he would interpret "physically interfering" as a person actually doing something physical. He speculated that a fisherman cutting off another fishing boat would not qualify under a definition of "physical." SENATOR GUESS asked to get a clarification from legal. SENATOR HUGGINS expressed support for the bill. 10:28:33 AM MR. POUND noted the definition of "physical" is "pertaining to the body as distinguished from the mind" according to Ballentines Dictionary. SENATOR FRENCH said the committee understands that HB 107 is a good idea but Senator Guess brings up a good point. He expressed interest in hearing an opinion from the United Fisherman of Alaska and from the legislative legal department before the bill leaves committee. 10:31:20 AM CHAIR SEEKINS also expressed an interest in hearing an opinion from the legislative legal department. SENATOR GUESS spoke for the record that she supports the bill. She maintained that she had concerns over some of the wording. CHAIR SEEKINS held HB 107 in committee.