Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/13/1996 09:30 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
MINUTES SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE 13 March 1996 9:30 A.M. TAPES SFC-96, #39, Sides 1 and 2 SFC-96, #40, Side 1 CALL TO ORDER Senator Rick Halford, Co-chair, convened the meeting at approximately 9:30 A.M. PRESENT Co-chairman Halford along with co-chairman Frank, Senators Phillips, Sharp, Rieger and Zharoff were present when the meeting convened. Senator Donley arrived shortly thereafter. Also Attending: Joe Ambrose, aide to Senator Robin Taylor; Stephanie Szymanski, aide to Senator Drue Pearce; Dwight Perkins, Special Assistant to the Office of the Commissioner, Department of Labor; Catherine Reardon, Director, Occupational Licensing, Department of Commerce and Economic Development; Steven Dougherty, Assistant Attorney Generan, Department of Law; Mike Greany, Director, Legislative Finance Division; and other aides to committee members. Captain Joe D'Amico, Commercial Crimes Bureau, Division of Fish & Wildlife Protection, Department of Public Safety testified via teleconference. SUMMARY INFORMATION SENATE BILL NO. 278 "An Act relating to the authority of the Department of Natural Resources to allow credits against fees at state historical parks." Joe Ambrose, aide to Senator Robin Taylor testified on behalf of SB 278. Senator Sharp MOVED SB 278 and without objection it was REPORTED OUT with individual recommendations and zero fiscal note from Department of Natural Resources. SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 31 Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to voter ratification of legislative approval of amendments of the Alaska Statehood Act affecting an interest of the State of Alaska under that Act. Stephanie Szymanski testified. Senator Sharp moved CSSJR 31(FIN) and without objection it was REPORTED OUT with individual recommendations and fiscal notes of $2.2 from the Division of Elections and zero from the office of the Governor. HOUSE BILL NO. 335 "An Act relating to the Big Game Commercial Services Board, guide-outfitters, transporters, and commercial use permit holders; extending the termination date of the Big Game Commercial Services Board; and providing for an effective date." Dwight Perkins, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, Department of Labor testified that the Department opposes exemptions. Catherine Reardon, Director of Occupational Licensing, Department of Commerce and Economic Development reviewed proposed amendments of the Division to SCS CSHB 335(FIN). It was decided that a new CS should be prepared. Captain Joe D'Amico, Commercial Crimes Bureau, Division of Fish & Wildlife Protection, Department of Public Safety also testified via teleconference. Pending preparation of new CS, bill was held in committee. SENATE BILL NO. 278 "An Act relating to the authority of the Department of Natural Resources to allow credits against fees at state historical parks." Mr. Joe Ambrose, aide to Senator Robin Taylor was invited to join the committee and testified on behalf of SB 278. This bill was introduced to address concerns raised by the Ketchikan Area State Parks Advisory Board and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly. It would provide a mechanism by which the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation could acquire two small parcels of land adjacent to Totem Bight State Historical Park. Ketchikan Public Utilities will vacate the property which will revert to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. SB 278 would allow DNR to offer credits against fees paid by commercial operators for payments made to a municipality for projects that would alleviate access congestion and parking problems at historical parks. The Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation indicated the use of this provision at any State Historical Park other than Totem Bight is unlikely. The authority would sunset on December 31, 2000. This three year window is needed to avoid drawing too quickly against fees. Totem Bight is a twelve and a half acre State Park located north of the city of Ketchikan. It had an estimated 160,000 visitors in 1995, half of them arriving on commercial tours. In 1977 it was estimated that the park could handle between 636 and 744 people at one time. Actual use now exceeds 925 people. The park has only 7 parking spaces for buses. Up to 21 buses park in the lot, on the road shoulders and at a nearby gift shop. Park staff advises independent travellers and local park users to avoid the park when the ships are in town. To mitigate this overcrowding and congestion DNR is proposing tour operators pay for the acquisition of the borough-owned parcels to provide additional parking space and additional attractions such as trails and a carving demonstration area. The Department of Transportation has told us they are interested in developing a transport enhancement project along the road at Totem Bight if the land becomes available. Totem Bight is a valuable asset, the State has invested more than $1 million in capital improvement projects in the past 10 years. Mr. Jim Stratton, Division Director advised that they are anticipating they would be using approximately $150,000 credits for this project. Senator Taylor is a long time supporter of this unique facility on the water. Senator Rieger asked if the sponsor of the bill would object to expanding the bill to include private, non-profit corporations. Mr. Ambrose indicated the sponsor preferred to confine the bill to historical parks. Senator Sharp asked if the bill results in allowing a partial or total diversion of payments now being made to DNR to a municipality for improvements they would do on the parking lot, why doesn't the fiscal note show a reduction program receipt. Mr. Ambrose said that the department was planning to increase the fees, not as a result of this bill, and his understanding as far as the fiscal note was concerned is that the end result is the State ends up with the asset. Senator Sharp also asked about the parcel of land owned by the Ketchikan Public Utilities that they plan to vacate and would it revert back to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. Is this a transfer or sale? Mr. Ambrose indicated that there was no sale. The property originally belonged to Ketchikan Gateway Borough and KPU had been using it. There was a reversion clause and they have to put it back in its original condition. Senator Frank asked if they were going to increase the fees because it is now a more convenient facility. Mr. Ambrose said the decision to increase the fee next year was made prior to anyone even talking about this bill. The Department would have to explain the fiscal note. Senator Rieger said if this was to be a single park it might not matter. A private, non-profit corporation in many situations would be the best entity to develope an improvement in a park. Sometimes there is some lack of confidence in the municipal government to do what the people in the area want. Instead of restricting the entity doing the improvements as to municipalities, it should be brought into private, non-profits to avoid the problems you sometimes have when city halls' views are different from those of the people outside of city hall. Senator Phillips said there is an Eagle River Visitors Center that is going to go non-profit to operate that facility and he would like to give them that ability. Co- chairman Halford said that this could be a pilot, one-time project but would not make it the policy of the State. Mr. Ambrose said that the municipality would not be making the improvement. They will be transferring the property to the State and improvements at Totem Bight State Park are made from revenue generators within the park. This matter just refers to the parking lot. Senator Frank asked if the park's budget would go down by $150,000 because the program receipts were going to go down. Co-chairman Halford indicated that they would not. In answer to questions posed by members at large, Mr. Ambrose indicated that there were other historical parks in the State, however they do not have the parking problems this one has. This is a very specific bill. When the idea came up the concern that the Co-chairman had was the first thing Senator Taylor thought about. What authority are we to give them? That is why the sunset provision is drafted as closely as it is. Senator Sharp MOVED SB 278 and without objection the bill was REPORTED OUT with individual recommendations and a zero fiscal note from the Department of Natural Resources. CS FOR SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 31(FIN) Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to voter approval of amendments of the Alaska Statehood Act affecting an interest of the State of Alaska under that Act. Stephanie Szymanski, aide to Senator Drue Pearce was invited to join the committee and testified on behalf of CSSJR 31(FIN). She indicated the language was substantially reworded from the judiciary version and she clarified concerns raised at the previous meeting. Senator Phillips MOVED to adopt proposed CSSJR 31(FIN) and without objection it was ADOPTED. Co-chairman Halford indicated there was a $2.2 fiscal note from the Governor's Office. Stephanie Szymanski discussed specific language of placing the matter for election in the next general election with Senators Zharoff and Sharp. Co-chairman Halford said that it could go to special election if necessary. Senator Sharp MOVED CSSJR 31(FIN) and without objection it was REPORTED OUT with individual recommendations and fiscal notes of $2.2 from the Division of Elections and zero from the office of the Governor. HOUSE BILL NO. 335 "An Act relating to the Big Game Commercial Services Board, guide-outfitters, transporters, and commercial use permit holders; extending the termination date of the Big Game Commercial Services Board; and providing for an effective date." CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 335(RES)(title am) "An Act extending the termination date of the Big Game Commercial Services Board; eliminating the requirement for a commercial use permit and for payment of commercial use permit fees; amending the membership of the Big Game Commercial Services Board; relating to the qualifications for an assistant guide-outfitter license; eliminating the requirement for testing of assistant guide-outfitters; providing for additional licensing requirements for transporters; eliminating the requirement for prior approval to enter or remain on state and federal land; eliminating the requirement t o register base camps; amending the definition of 'big game commercial services'; and providing for an effective date." Mr. Dwight Perkins, Special Assistant, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Labor was invited to join the committee and testified with regards to amending the exemptions found in AS 23.10.055 to include individuals employed as guides and assistant guides from entitlement to minimum wage and overtime for the first sixty days while hunting in the field. The Department of Labor has historically opposed these kinds of exemptions because it just eliminates another class of employees from having the opportunity to receive minimum wage and overtime. Co-chairman Halford indicated a long list of exclusions and noted that this is a smaller exemption than most of those already existing in the law. Mr. Perkins concurred that the exemption does just carve out a minimum of time, i.e. the sixty days. The Department feels that this equates to the hunting season. Co-chairman Halford explained this bill was advocated due to the fact that there was not usually a supervisor available and the person running the camp could decide whether to work longer hours. There is no real authority. Wage and Hour has to make a decision based on this information only. Catherine Reardon, Director, Occupational Licensing was invited to join the committee. She noted this was a complete rewrite of the statute and reviewed amendment #1, duties and powers of the Department. During discussion of this amendment Senator Zharoff asked for a clarification of the word "current", page 3, line 6. Ms. Reardon explained that the language appeared on page 4, line 8 and was just transferred over. Senator Rieger asked that the word "appropriate" be inserted on line 3 page 27 before "...disciplinary..." and Ms. Reardon concurred. Senator Phillips noted that what may be an offense in one state may not be an offense in Alaska. Ms. Reardon stated the theory is that someone who will violate laws in another state will have a propensity to ignore the laws here. Captain Joe D'Amico, Commercial Crimes Bureau, Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection testified via teleconference. He concurred with Ms. Reardon's comments and noted the issue is whether or not the law was broken and the individual was charged or convicted. Co-chairman Halford said that someone with a conviction was excluded. Captain D'Amico indicated that there had been only a very few cases where an individual wanted to challenge their conviction. Ms. Reardon further indicated that the amendment included "revoked or suspended in Alaska or another jurisdiction". This would also include Canada and other countries. Senator Phillips questioned the terms "outfitter" and "guide". Co- chairman Halford said that was why the term "outfitter" needed to be added. He flagged these objections for further discussion. Ms. Reardon continued on to amendment #2, license qualifications. Co-chairman Halford said that it was difficult for rural Alaskans to find a place to take the CPR and first aid test and then the card was only good for one year, whereas the license was good for two years. It should be a requirement for getting a license but he opposed the first aid requirement because he felt this was a barrier for rural residents. Ms. Reardon indicated that he was correct and one only needed a current first aid or CPR card for renewal of the license. Senator Rieger questioned the $500 fine and Senator Zharoff wanted to know an example of what would cause a fine to be $500. Captain D'Amico said that under current law any guide or game violation would likely result in a fine over $500. Co-chairman Halford asked if the current standard was perhaps a little too tight? He concurred with Captain D'Amico that the whole package needed to be looked at with regards to what a violation is, what the standards are for license actions, Court actions and administrative penalties. Ms. Reardon continued on to amendment #3, registered guide license. Co-chairman Halford indicated that page 4, lines 9 - 13 will remain open for further consideration of how enforcement should be dealt with. He and Senator Phillips discussed the experience requirement to take the test and co-chairman Halford indicated that they were trying to advocate currency in the experience requirement. He noted that page 4, line 28 would remain open for further discussion. Senator Zharoff asked about proof of financial responsibility. Ms. Reardon said that current law requires liability insurance and this amendment would expand it to include assets. Ms. Reardon continued to amendment #4, renewal of registered guide license. She noted that in this section she was deleting the hunt records. Captain D'Amico said that harvest information is all included on one document at present. Co-chairman Halford said that page 6, line 27 he would hold open for further discussion. Ms. Reardon continued on to amendment #5, qualifications to be class A assistant guide license. Co-chairman Halford said that they would need to have a substantive discussion on the standard of discipline for both disqualification of license and for the administrative action for penalties when added to the Court's actions. Further policy questions remain on rural residents qualifying for class-A assistant guide licenses and first aid requirements. Co-chairman Halford asked Captain D'Amico for information regarding process and penalties for violation of a tagging, reporting, export license or fee requirement as a minor violation; process and penalties for wanton waste violation. Captain D'Amico referred to four violations that result in automatic license revocation under current law page 11, line 27. In addition to the license action any one of these four violations could bring a criminal sentence in the guide statute for up to one year and $30,000 fine plus additional criminal sanctions available under Title 16 ranging from $5,000 to a year in jail. These refer to state violations. He referred to a tagging violation of a sheep which is a $100 mail in bail. The guide, however, faces a guide violation which has up to a $30,000 fine and a year in jail. Co-chairman Halford asked about special felony provision for guides and Captain D'Amico said it was for multiple offenders who had one conviction on a guide violation. There is presumptive law in the new bill that would mandate a two-year sentence for some of those violations. Ms. Reardon indicated that the reason they would like to keep the civil option open is because if someone has done something relatively minor and Public Safety does not take them to court, a more mild sanction can be imposed through a civil action. (change to tape SFC-96, #40, Side 1) Senator Phillips asked Captain D'Amico if they were adequately equipped to enforce the laws at present. Captain D'Amico indicated that he was concerned about losing the commercial use permit fee because those funds were targeted for rural Alaska Game and Guiding Enforcement. Under the current system, however, an adequate job is being done. He did voice concern that judges did not generally handle guide license sentencing and referred that to the guide boards. However, if a guide has a potential of losing his license he is more apt to have a trial and that will affect the way matters are handled. Senator Phillips voiced concern over the ability to enforce the law in order to protect the conservation of the resources in the state. He cited the hunting of animals in closed season, including fishing. Co-chairman Halford said the questions now before the committee were how to deal with prior felonies; exclusion of felons and, if so, for how long; prior violations of hunting-sportfishing-guiding-outfitting statutes; exclusion of licensing for how long; the big four violations; automatic revocation of license or a suspension of license; dealing with smaller violations; and dealing with second smaller violations. This all has to be reviewed. Senator Rieger referred to peer review and felt this was not a good dependable policy. Co-chairman Halford said one gets knowledge but not impartiality under this system. Some standards have to be set up. Senator Zharoff said originally this was a user friendly bill toward rural residents. He asked what criteria was used for non-resident fees? Catherine Reardon said for criteria she just simply said "double". Senator Sharp was concerned about the "big four" violations and the conflict between state and federal regulations. Captain D'Amico felt this was a valid concern. He said the reason the federal regulations were included was to protect national parks, such as Mt. Denali and Katmai. Co-chairman Halford also indicated his concern. Captain D'Amico referred to a case where a bandit had gotten into a national park, which state game regulations do not address, and then the state was unable to take license action. The concern now is that the feds are managing more areas and they do occasionally have areas open that the state does not or vice versa. Co-chairman Halford referred to amendment #9 and wanted to know who decided "convicted of" as opposed to "violated". Ms. Reardon said that the Department through a hearing officer decided. She also referred to the possible options for disciplinary actions the department may take. Co-chairman Halford and Ms. Reardon discussed dealing with the level of enforcement. She noted that it was very difficult to get a hearing officer to recommend a revocation. Mr. Steven Dougherty, assistant Attorney General, Department of Law was invited to join the committee. In response to co-chairman Halford's question regarding non-resident fees he said that the Court had put forth some standards for imposing fee differentials. Non-residents can be required to pay their fair share of the administration of a program. It must be shown that non-residents should have to pay extra because residents are already contributing their fare share. He noted that the "Carlson case" was now before the Supreme Court for the second time. Initially it was held that non- residents have to pay the full cost of administration even if state residents are being subsidized in some manner and it was rejected by the Court. The Court further stated that mere bald assertion was not sufficient. Facts and figures must be supplied to show how the residents and non-residents become comparable. Basically, the State constitution is more limiting. Co-chairman Halford HELD HB 335 in committee and said a new draft should be presented with the division's amendments involving management and technical rewrites highlighted. SENATE BILL NO. 309 "An Act relating to insurance pooling." Co-chairman Halford introduced the bill relating to insurance pooling as requested by the Home Builders and there was NO OBJECTION. The bill was subsequently numbered SB 309 and read across on the Senate Floor. ADJOURNMENT The meeting was adjourned at approximately 11:27 A.M.