Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/26/1996 03:35 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 273 NATIVE HANDICRAFTS & INSTATE PRODUCTS Number 001 CHAIRMAN SHARP called the Senate State Affairs Committee to order at 3:35 p.m. and brought up SB 273 as the first order of business before the committee. He called Senator Lincoln to testify. Number 030 SENATOR GEORGIANNA LINCOLN, prime sponsor of SB 273, informed the committee that some of the native arts and crafts she brought to the hearing are genuine, and some are not. SB 273 would require sellers of native handicrafts with a retail value of over $100.00 to display a poster at least 11 inches by 17 inches. There has to be a certificate of origin also. She noted that not even all of the senators on the committee were able to correctly identify which handicrafts she brought to the hearing were genuine, and which were not. Senator Lincoln displayed handicrafts and explained which ones were made in Alaska by Alaska Natives, and which were not. She related some of the circumstances under which the non-genuine articles were made. One man sold the rights to his name to a company in Seattle that then has handicrafts manufactured in the Philippines with that man's name on them. Some of the other articles were made in the lower forty-eight and Bali. Senator Lincoln stated the problem of mis-representation of whether handicrafts are genuinely made in Alaska by Alaska Natives or not is becoming more and more pronounced. Number 160 SENATOR LINCOLN stated that presently, about 80% of the $78,000,000.00 that was spent in 1994 on gifts and souvenirs is questionable as to whether those gifts and souvenirs were even made in Alaska. SB 273 would make those persons guilty of counterfeiting or misrepresentation of Alaska Native handicrafts liable for up to a $1,000.00 fine and or up to 90 days in jail. CHAIRMAN SHARP asked if there were any questions for Senator Lincoln at this time. Number 186 SENATOR LEMAN asked what percent native a person would have to be to qualify for this program, and does the work have to be produced in Alaska? SENATOR LINCOLN responded a person has to be at least one-fourth or more Alaska Native Ancestry. That is defined within the bill. The work does have to be produced in Alaska. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no further questions, stated the committee would take testimony via teleconference. Number 200 CLEMENT UNGOTT, testifying from Gambell, stated he is an eskimo who was born and raised on St. Laurence Island, Gambell, Alaska. Mr. Ungott stated he supports SB 273, because handicrafts are the only source of income for his people. Inauthentic handicrafts have been damaging to the native carvers, and Mr. Ungott has seen his own work reproduced, but he doesn't know where it's occurring or who is doing it. Number 240 COMMISSIONER WILLIE HENSLEY, Department of Commerce & Economic Development, testifying from Anchorage, stated the Silver Hand Program has been part of state law since shortly after statehood. Today there are about 530 Silver Hand artists enrolled in the program, and 25 Silver Hand agents. SB 273 will help keep fraudulent production of Alaska Native arts and crafts out of the market place. He doesn't think it will solve the problem, but he thinks it will be a big help. It will promote the sale and value of authentically produced Native arts and crafts. It will also help educate the public about the Silver Hand Program and the certificate of origin. A large proportion of the items sold as Native arts and crafts are considered to be fraudulent. Arts and crafts represent a major portion of income for natives. The amount of opportunity for rural villages will increase significantly if we can reduce the fraudulent productions that are on the market. We have an obligation to protect this market if we are serious about stimulating private sector economic growth and independence for rural Alaska. Commissioner Hensley thinks that dependance will increase on this type of income. SB 273 would implement recommendations made by the Native Arts & Crafts Task Force. The idea would be not to use general funds for this program, but to utilize program receipts to fund it. He urges support for SB 273. Number 285 SENATOR LEMAN asked Commissioner Hensley where program receipts would come from. COMMISSIONER HENSLEY responded they would use private sector contributions, federal grants, and private foundation funding for the $18,000.00 fiscal note. SENATOR LEMAN wondered if it would make sense to try to sell the posters for several dollars apiece. COMMISSIONER HENSLEY responded it was their inclination to provide them to vendors. Number 299 ANGIE LARSON, Member - Native Arts & Crafts Task Force, Alaska Treasures, testifying from Anchorage, stated she's been a Native arts and crafts wholesaler for 17 years. Her concern is that the fraud in the industry is drowning genuine Alaska Native arts and crafts to extinction. There are so many mass-produced Native style products that the consumer cannot always tell the difference. It is hard to compete with mass-produced products sold for half the price. She asked committee members to support SB 273. This is not a Native problem, it is an Alaskan problem. Number 317 TEDDY MAYAC, testifying from Anchorage, stated he is an eskimo ivory carver and has been associated with the Native arts and crafts industry in Alaska for over 30 years. He supports SB 273. He wants to see the termination of unethical practices which have been initiated by unscrupulous dealers. These profiteers are using Native Alaskan names, which are given names belonging only to each craftsperson. These individuals are also copying Native Alaskan styles without permission from the artist whose work they copy, and often times mass produce. The counterfeit works most always under- sell the authentic pieces, thereby undermining the whole infrastructure of the Native Alaskan arts and crafts industry. Mr. Mayac fully supports SB 273 because it strengthens the disadvantaged position of the rural Alaskan craftspeople who, more than any other artists, deserve protection to obtain fair market prices for their works. In addition, the Native arts and crafts industry is, for the most part, the only viable means of obtaining income for a very high percentage of Native people in Alaska. SB 273 is long overdue; the State of Alaska is mandated to protect all it's citizens. It is a beginning step towards fair treatment of the Native Alaskans who depend on this industry to make a living. Number 345 It is noted that Chuck McGee, a representative of the Silver Hands Program within the Department of Commerce & Economic Development is available on-line to answer questions. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked Mr. McGee if he has a copy of the bill. MR. MCGEE responded he does. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked him about the language on the last two lines of page 2 "...all materials used to produce the handicraft are legal for the buyer to possess in the United States." Can Mr. McGee expound on that? Senator Phillips stated that several years ago he was in the Canadian Arctic, and was given a walrus tie pin, which he was not allowed to take out of Canada. He wondered if the language on page 2 would affect foreign persons buying Alaskan Native products. What about possession other than in the United States? MR. MCGEE thinks that would apply if the item was not legal to hold in possession in the United States, then the buyer would not be allowed to own that or take it out of the country. The Department of Commerce & Economic Development provides to stores a booklet that identifies all of the materials, particularly mammal parts, that are legal for taking across international boundaries, as well as taking out of Alaska. He stated that Ms. Larson has something to add to that question. Number 380 MS. LARSON stated she can explain that language. There are a lot of questions and misunderstandings about walrus ivory and the purchase of it, even from U.S. citizens. When tourists come to Alaska, all they've heard about is elephant ivory. They know it's illegal and the generalize all forms of ivory. So that was put in the bill to clarify that it was ok for them to buy these materials. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS stated that if you get ivory in another country and bring it back to this country, you run into some problems. MS. LARSON replied that this only pertains to ivory purchased in Alaska to clarify that it is ok. SENATOR DONLEY asked what the rules are for purchase in Alaska. MS. LARSON responded, Native made walrus ivory products can be sold and purchased anywhere in the U.S. If it's pre-1972 ivory, there are non-Natives who can use it, but it must carry a certain warrantee with it. CHAIRMAN SHARP asked about seal skins or articles made from seal. MS. LARSON replied that articles made out of seal are ok in the U.S., and most countries will accept that also, but it must be Native made in Alaska. CHAIRMAN SHARP stated he was in Canada and he bought what he thought was a seal product. However, he was not allowed to bring it back into the country in Fairbanks. MS. LARSON responded there are a lot of politics between Canada and the U.S. on these things. You can't take it their way, and they can't take it our way. But that's another subject. CHAIRMAN SHARP asked if there were any other questions on SB 273 by committee members. Number 410 SENATOR DONLEY made a motion to discharge SB 273 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, stated SB 273 was discharged from the Senate State Affairs Committee. SENATOR LINCOLN informed committee members that the fraudulent items she brought to the hearing today are on loan from the Anchorage Museum, which is having an exhibit of counterfeit products. These items were purchased by an undercover agent from Anchorage stores that said the items were authentic Alaskan Native made items.