Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

01/23/2006 03:30 PM RESOURCES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
           CSHB 107(FIN)-HUNTING/FISHING INTERFERENCE                                                                       
CHAIR  THOMAS  WAGONER  announced  CSHB 107(FIN)  to  be  up  for                                                               
JIM POUND, staff to Representative  Ramras, delivered the sponsor                                                               
statement. He  related that  CSHB 107(FIN)  corrects an  error in                                                               
law  that  addresses  a growing  concern  about  individuals  and                                                               
groups  who  were  obstructing  hunting,  trapping  and  wildlife                                                               
viewing in Alaska. When an  obstruction takes place, the offender                                                               
can be charged with criminal activity;  he can also be charged in                                                               
a  civil case  by the  aggrieved person.  Juries have  awarded as                                                               
much  as  $200,000 in  these  aggrieved  civil cases.  Currently,                                                               
reasonable attorney  fees and costs are  not necessarily awarded,                                                               
which has a  chilling effect, as this cost is  directly passed on                                                               
to the  plaintiff rather  than the defendant.  HB 107  allows the                                                               
court to authorize  reasonable and actual attorneys  fees when it                                                               
comes to the prevailing party in either case.                                                                                   
3:32:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WAGONER commented that he  read about a lawsuit against the                                                               
state because a helicopter caused a fish to jump out of a seine.                                                                
MR. POUND  responded that  a lawsuit was  brought against  a Fish                                                               
and  Wildlife Protection  officer  whose helicopter  was too  low                                                               
according to  the individual resident, and  the helicopter scared                                                               
away  the  game.  A  similar  case  had to  do  with  fish  in  a                                                               
commercial fishery.  Language was added  to this bill  to prevent                                                               
that from happening  in the future saying that  a law enforcement                                                               
officer,  in  the  line  of duty,  is  not  obstructing  hunting,                                                               
trapping or wildlife viewing.                                                                                                   
3:34:52 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BERT STEDMAN  asked how  viewing  wildlife is  separated                                                               
from hunting and trapping in multi-use areas.                                                                                   
3:35:33 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. POUND clarified  that language on page 1, line  6, states to:                                                               
"intentionally  obstruct   or  hinder  another   person's  lawful                                                               
hunting"  and a  snow  machine causing  an animal  to  move in  a                                                               
multi-use area wouldn't be considered intentional.                                                                              
3:36:44 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEN  STEVENS asked why commercial  fishermen are excluded                                                               
on page 2, lines 20-22.                                                                                                         
MR.  POUND replied  that Representative  Seaton didn't  want this                                                               
law  to  include  commercial  fisheries  when  working  in  close                                                               
proximity  to  each  other,  like  in Bristol  Bay.  One  of  the                                                               
fishermen could try to use this language to fend off another.                                                                   
3:37:59 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  ELTON asked  if  the punishment  of  a snow-machiner  is                                                               
greater under these provisions or  under the provisions of simply                                                               
hunting or fishing  where they are not supposed to  be hunting or                                                               
MR. POUND  replied that he  hadn't considered that  scenario, but                                                               
an action like that could  possibly be based on someone operating                                                               
a snow machine in a restricted area.                                                                                            
SENATOR  ELTON suggested  that there  could  be multiple  actions                                                               
against a snow-machine operator.                                                                                                
MR. POUND replied that there  could be multiple infractions under                                                               
existing statute right now.                                                                                                     
3:40:20 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEDMAN asked  how one  differentiates between  wildlife                                                               
viewers and hunters in multiuse areas.                                                                                          
MR. POUND  replied that  this collision  is already  addressed in                                                               
some ways in existing statute.  The arresting officer decides who                                                               
gets charged.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR STEDMAN  asked if  this bill  would make  litigation more                                                               
MR.  POUND replied  that it  would lead  to more  litigation only                                                               
because it  allows the  award of full  attorneys fees,  which has                                                               
not been the policy in the past.                                                                                                
SENATOR  STEDMAN  commented that  this  bill  might enhance  this                                                               
issue  especially  in  multiple  use areas  where  you  might  be                                                               
fishing  in a  stream where  someone may  want to  photograph the                                                               
same fish.                                                                                                                      
MR.  POUND replied  that that  is  the intent.  This issue  arose                                                               
mainly  from  trappers   with  trap  lines  that   had  been  cut                                                               
SENATOR BEN STEVENS  noted that the definition  of full attorneys                                                               
fees has  gone back and  forth from  reasonable and actual  to 90                                                               
percent.  He asked  in  what other  instances  is the  prevailing                                                               
party entitled to full attorney fees.                                                                                           
MR. POUND replied in eminent domain issues.                                                                                     
SENATOR  BEN STEVENS  asked if  this action  would be  brought in                                                               
criminal or civil court.                                                                                                        
MR.  POUND  replied that  both  criminal  and civil  actions  are                                                               
available to  the Department of  Public Safety, but  this applies                                                               
to civil.                                                                                                                       
3:44:34 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WAGONER  said the required  distance between  drift gillnet                                                               
gear and set net gear is  different in Bristol Bay than in Prince                                                               
William Sound and Southeast; and  the committee needed to look at                                                               
the  phrase,  "an  action  related  to  commercial  fishing".  He                                                               
explained that many  times ADF&G would refuse  to become involved                                                               
when there is  an estimation of distances between  gear types. It                                                               
would be hard for  a set netter to go to  civil court and testify                                                               
that  someone was  a certain  distance  from his  gear without  a                                                               
criminal procedure having been taken first.                                                                                     
MR. POUND  replied that he  thought one fisherman could  bring an                                                               
action  against  another   fisherman  through  an  administrative                                                               
action  since  a   lot  of  their  activities   are  governed  by                                                               
SENATOR ELTON asked  if language on page 2, lines  4 and 5, would                                                               
allow a Southeast  gillnetter to have a private  action against a                                                               
Princess cruise ship or a tug and  barge if, in fact, his net was                                                               
run over by one of them.                                                                                                        
MR. POUND replied that he would have to look that up.                                                                           
SENATOR DYSON responded that he thought yes.                                                                                    
3:48:13 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEN STEVENS  commented that it seemed that  the intent is                                                               
to prevent a  third party from intervening in the  action, not to                                                               
prevent those individuals who are engaged in commercial fishing.                                                                
MR.  POUND  replied that  he  understands  this would  prevent  a                                                               
commercial  fisherman from  bringing  an  action against  another                                                               
commercial fisherman.                                                                                                           
CHAIR WAGONER  commented that he  didn't know  why Representative                                                               
Seaton  would want  to take  that  stance. All  kinds of  actions                                                               
among commercial fishermen could result in a civil action.                                                                      
3:50:37 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  DYSON  assumed the  purpose  of  this  bill is  to  keep                                                               
activists,  who don't  like hunting,  fishing and  trapping, from                                                               
interfering with  it. He  suspected the sponsor  did not  want to                                                               
delay  action  on a  valuable  bill  because  of its  impacts  on                                                               
commercial fishermen.                                                                                                           
MR. POUND responded that he was correct.                                                                                        
3:51:57 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEN  STEVENS agreed with  Senator Dyson, but  pointed out                                                               
that  it  wasn't  the  sponsor  who  inserted  the  clause  about                                                               
commercial fishing.                                                                                                             
SENATOR DYSON summed  up the question asking if  insertion of the                                                               
phrase on page 2, line 28 didn't clear up the intent.                                                                           
CHAIR  WAGONER announced  that CSHB  107(FIN) would  be held  for                                                               
further discussion.                                                                                                             

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