Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/18/1996 03:35 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                   SENATE RESOURCES COMMITTEE                                  
                         March 18, 1996                                        
                           3:35 p.m.                                           
 MEMBERS PRESENT                                                               
 Senator Loren Leman, Chairman                                                 
 Senator Drue Pearce, Vice Chairman                                            
 Senator Steve Frank                                                           
 Senator Rick Halford                                                          
 Senator Robin Taylor                                                          
 Senator Georgianna Lincoln                                                    
 Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                         
  MEMBERS ABSENT                                                               
 All members present                                                           
  COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                           
 SENATE BILL NO. 201                                                           
 "An Act relating to the employment of emergency fire-fighting                 
 personnel by the commissioner of natural resources."                          
 SENATE BILL NO. 215                                                           
 "An Act streamlining the functions of state government, including             
 authorizing the commissioner of fish and game to award grants for             
 certain resource activities; allowing agents selling fish and game            
 licenses and tags to retain certain compensation; authorizing the             
 Department of Health and Social Services to award grants for                  
 certain services for developmentally delayed or disabled children;            
 relating to rabies control and administration of flour and bread              
 standards by the Department of Environmental Conservation;                    
 repealing the Athletic Commission, the regulation of boxing and               
 wrestling, the certification of professional geologists, and the              
 Water Resources Board; repealing certain filing statements and                
 bonds for enforcement and collection of certain taxes; and                    
 providing for an effective date."                                             
  PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE   ACTION                                           
 SB 201 - No previous action to record.                                        
 SB 215 - No previous action to record.                                        
  WITNESS REGISTER                                                             
 Senator Georgianna Lincoln                                                    
 State Capitol                                                                 
 Juneau, AK 99801-1182                                                         
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Prime Sponsor of SB 201                                
 George Yaska                                                                  
 Tanana Chiefs Conference, Inc.                                                
 122 1st Ave.                                                                  
 Fairbanks, AK                                                                 
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Testified in support of CSSB 201(RES)                  
 Craig Goodrich, State Fire Marshall                                           
 Division of Fire Prevention                                                   
 Department of Public Safety                                                   
 5700 E. Tudor Road                                                            
 Anchorage, AK 99507-1225                                                      
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Testified in support of CSSB 201(RES)                  
 Ray Shinn,                                                                    
 Chitna Traditional Village Council                                            
 P.O. Box 129                                                                  
 Glennallen, AK 99588                                                          
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Supports CSSB 201(RES)                                 
 Tom Boutin, State Forester                                                    
 Division of Forestry                                                          
 Department of Natural Resources                                               
 400 Willoughby Ave., 3rd Floor                                                
 Juneau, AK 99801-1724                                                         
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Offered information on CSSB 201(RES)                   
 Nico Bus, Acting Director                                                     
 Division of Support Services                                                  
 Department of Natural Resources                                               
 400 Willoughby Ave.                                                           
 Juneau, AK 99801-1724                                                         
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Offered information on CSSB 201(RES) and               
      SB 215                                                                   
 Geron Bruce, Legislative Liaison                                              
 Department of Fish & Game                                                     
 P.O. Box 25526                                                                
 Juneau, AK 99811-5526                                                         
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Explained Sections 1 - 4 of SB 215                     
 Kevin Brooks, Director                                                        
 Division of Administrative Services                                           
 Department of Fish & Game                                                     
 P.O. Box 25526                                                                
 Juneau, AK 99811-5526                                                         
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Explained Section 10 of SB 215                         
  ACTION NARRATIVE                                                             
  TAPE 96-31, SIDE A                                                           
 Number 001                                                                    
           SB 201 FIRE FIGHTING PERSONNEL EMPLOYMENT                          
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to             
 order at 3:35 p.m.  He introduced SB 201 as the first order of                
 business and noted there was a proposed committee substitute for              
 the committee's consideration.                                                
  GEORGE YASKA , representing the Tanana Chiefs Conference, testified          
 in support for SB 201.  He said it is an issue that has been near             
 to his heart and the fire fighters in the southern region (DNR's              
 jurisdiction) for some years.  He said it always good to do                   
 preventative work, and he thinks SB 201 does that very well.                  
 Mr. Yaska related that he fought fires for many years in the past,            
 and in extremely heavy fire-fighting years they could have greatly            
 benefited from preventative work being done in the low fire-                  
 fighting years.  Most of the time that work isn't done primarily              
 because the statute doesn't allow emergency fire-fighting crews for           
 non-wildfire suppression.                                                     
 Number 105                                                                    
  SENATOR TAYLOR  moved CSSB 201(RES), draft "C," dated 2/10/96 be             
 adopted.  Hearing no objection, the Chairman stated the committee             
 substitute was before the committee as a working document.                    
  SENATOR LINCOLN , prime sponsor of SB 201, explained the only                
 difference in the committee substitute was a clarifying sentence              
 added on page 2, line 2, which reads:  "The assignment of emergency           
 fire-fighting personnel to nonemergency activities may not be used            
 to replace permanent or seasonal state employees."                            
 Senator Lincoln said the legislation was introduced to provide the            
 Department of Natural Resource with the authority to utilize                  
 emergency fire-fighting employees for fire management, fire                   
 suppression and fire prevention activities by adding a new                    
 subsection to AS 41.15.030.  Existing law authorizes the                      
 commissioner to hire fire-fighting personnel, but does not                    
 expressly authorize their use for fire prevention, hazard                     
 reduction, or other related activities.                                       
 SB 201 would clarify that emergency fire-fighting personnel could             
 be employed by the department in nonemergency circumstances to                
 construct and maintain fire breaks and trails, remove brush and               
 timber, conduct prescribed burns and improve wildlife habitat.  The           
 enactment of the bill into law also will ensure the Department of             
 Natural Resources to take advantage of existing federal money for             
 nonemergency fire prevention projects.  In FY 95, the Division of             
 Forestry received approval to receive and expend up to $500,000 in            
 federal receipts to supply emergency fire-fighting crews to federal           
 agencies on a reimbursable basis.  Presently, of the $500,000 that            
 is available through federal money, the Department of Natural                 
 Resources has already identified projects totaling $250,000.  SB              
 201 would enable these federal dollars to be utilized by the                  
 already trained fire-fighting crews for the projects that are                 
 Senator Lincoln said she thinks the impact of the bill is a very              
 positive one on the state with having up to half a million dollars            
 of federal money coming into the state, as well as a positive                 
 impact on the state's resources.                                              
 Number 217                                                                    
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  noted the bill carries zero fiscal notes, but he             
 wondered how there can be no fiscal impact when the commissioner's            
 authority for hiring is expanded.   SENATOR LINCOLN  responded that           
 it doesn't expend any money; it brings federal money in.                      
  SENATOR TAYLOR  also questioned if there shouldn't be a fiscal note          
 when their is an expenditure of federal funds.   NICO BUS , Acting            
 Director, Division of Support Services, Department of Natural                 
 Resources, clarified that the reason there is not a fiscal note is            
 because the legislation does not mandate that the department do               
 anything.  It gives the department the statutory authority to                 
 utilize the federal funds for emergency fire-fighting personnel for           
 fire prevention and other activities.  He added that the language             
 would also allow them to use state money, if appropriated, but                
 there is no money appropriated for that.                                      
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked if the department is now doing any fire                
 suppression, hazard reduction, fire prevention, habitat                       
 restoration, etc., without this explicit authorization.   MR. BUS             
 responded they currently do certain forest management functions,              
 but they do not use emergency fire crews to perform these                     
  SENATOR HALFORD  questioned how this applies to the fire suppression         
 fund.   SENATOR LINCOLN  responded it is her understanding that the           
 fire suppression dollars are for just that; SB 201 clarifies that             
 the department can use and extend the federal funds for other                 
 related fire prevention.                                                      
 Number 322                                                                    
  CRAIG GOODRICH , State Fire Marshall, Division of Fire Prevention,           
 Department of Public Safety, testifying from Anchorage, said the              
 state of Alaska expends between $350,000,000 and $400,000,000 a               
 year on fire and fire suppression related issues, a portion of that           
 being wild land.  He said he thinks it is very easy to overlook the           
 value of fire prevention efforts and activities, and he can see               
 nothing in this bill that does more than allow for that to happen.            
 The bill does nothing but benefit the residents of the state and              
 those bush communities.  He voiced support for the legislation by             
 the department, the State Fire Chiefs Association and the State               
 Fire Fighters Association.                                                    
  RAY SHINN , Director of Natural Resources for the Chitna Traditional         
 Village Council, as well as manager of the Taslina Hot Shots,                 
 testified from Glennallen in support of SB 201.  He said this is              
 something they have been doing for the past 15 years, and there are           
 numerous spin-off benefits when something like is done with the               
 emergency fire-fighting crews throughout the state.                           
  TOM BOUTIN , State Forester, Division of Forestry, Department of             
 Natural Resources, related there are 73 of the 16-person emergency            
 fire-fighting crews in the state.  The Division of Forestry manages           
 46 of them and the balance is managed by the Bureau of Land                   
 Management's Alaska Fire Service.  Also, the Fire Service has two             
 20-person hot shot crews, as well as Ray Shinn's type one crew.               
 Each crew is autonomous; the 16-person crew is normally from a                
 single village.  The average wage, including overtime, paid to                
 emergency fire fighters in 1995 was $12.76 an hour.                           
 He pointed out that these fire-fighting crews are also sent outside           
 the state where there is much demand for them when there is a high            
 fire season.  The reports the division gets from the Lower 48 is              
 that these crews are very hard working, well trained, cost                    
 effective and very safe.                                                      
 Mr. Boutin also noted that these crews are called out on a                    
 rotational basis, so no one agency's crews are favored.  He said in           
 concept and in practice, that probably should eliminate the concern           
 that anybody might have that it's an incentive for someone to                 
 originate a fire in order to get work since the rotational basis              
 would mean that a crew in one part of the state wouldn't                      
 necessarily be the crew that would fight a fire in that part of the           
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked how Alaska's crews compare with crews outside          
 of Alaska.   MR. BOUTIN  related that a report comes back with every          
 single incident, and the Lower 48 states and the federal agencies             
 really can't say enough good about the crews that are sent out.               
 Some crews were sent to the Yukon this past year and the governor             
 and commissioner received letters back saying what a good account             
 those people gave of themselves.                                              
 Number 470                                                                    
  SENATOR HALFORD  said in the first section of the bill the exemption         
 for the personnel is basically an exemption of the whole State                
 Personnel Act and that exemption is based on the emergency nature             
 of fire fighting, etc.  He expressed concern about going around the           
 personnel act for essentially year-round employees doing year-round           
 work, and he wondered if the Department of Labor had looked at this           
 legislation.   SENATOR LINCOLN  replied that she thinks the language          
 added in the committee substitute addresses his concern, and that             
 there was some involvement by the Department of Labor in the                  
  SENATOR HALFORD  asked if there is a way to draft the legislation so         
 that it would cover only federal money.   MR. BOUTIN  responded that          
 there is, but in order to use state money, there would have to be             
 an appropriation made by the legislature.                                     
  SENATOR FRANK  said his only concern is that some previous governors         
 have declared emergencies and then had the authority to spend any             
 monies in the state treasury, as well as municipal monies.   MR.              
 BOUTIN  clarified the intent is to be able to use these emergency             
 fire fighters, which are the 16-person autonomous crews, for work             
 in addition to fire suppression as there might be a demand out                
 there, such as the prescribed burn on the Kenai moose range.                  
  SENATOR HALFORD  said there is a special mechanism that allows the           
 fire suppression fund to go forward outside of its own limits and             
 outside of the amount of money that's there, and he and Senator               
 Frank are concerned that there not be an automatic appropriating              
 mechanism attached to this bill.   SENATOR LINCOLN  reiterated that           
 this was not the intent of the legislation and she does not read              
 the language that way, but if there was a way to modify the                   
 language to address their concern, she would not have a problem               
 with that.    SENATOR FRANK  pointed out the bill would be going to           
 the Finance Committee and they could take a closer look at it                 
 Number 545                                                                    
  SENATOR TAYLOR  moved that CSSB 201(RES) be passed out of committee          
 with individual recommendations.   CHAIRMAN LEMAN  objected and               
 stated he wanted to hold the bill until the next meeting in order             
 to take a closer look at the fiscal notes because there is question           
 as to whether they meet the requirements for fiscal notes on bills.           
  SENATOR TAYLOR  withdrew his motion to pass CSSB 201(RES) out of             
 Number 575                                                                    
       SB 215 OMNIBUS STATE AGENCY OPERATONS & PROGRAM                       
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  brought SB 215 before the committee as the next              
 order of business.  He stated the committee would be dealing with             
 only Sections 1 - 4 and Sections 9 and 10 of the bill.                        
    GERON BRUCE , Legislative Liaison, Department of Fish and Game,            
 addressing Section 1 - 4, said there are basically two provisions             
 in those sections that this legislation accomplishes.  Section one            
 provides the Department of Fish and Game with authority to award              
 grants for protecting, maintaining, improving, or extending fish,             
 game, or aquatic plant resources of the state.                                
  TAPE 96-31, SIDE B                                                           
 Number 001                                                                    
 Sections 2, 3 and 4 deal with the streamlining of vendor                      
 compensation for the sale of recreational hunting and fishing                 
 licenses and crew member licenses.  The vendors receive some                  
 compensation which is intended to defray the costs of the service             
 they provide.  Right now, the vendors receive the compensation in             
 a two-stage process:  (1) they get to retain five percent up front;           
 and (2) they receive payment for additional compensation later.  He           
 said the legislation will allow the vendors to retain the total               
 value of the compensation at the same time rather than it being a             
 two-step process.                                                             
 Number 015                                                                    
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked if the $50 per year threshold was to entice            
 vendors to offer the service.   MR. BRUCE  answered that it has been          
 there for a long time, and he doesn't recollect the original cause            
 for setting it there, but he thought it was intended to provide at            
 least a minimum level of compensation for people that were doing              
 this as a service.                                                            
 Number 030                                                                    
  SENATOR PEARCE , in referring to Section 1, said she thought the             
 legislation was giving extremely broad authority, and she asked               
 what can't the department do now that they want to be able to do              
 through this legislation.   MR. BRUCE  explained that the department          
 would like to be able to participate in partnerships with private             
 land owners, particularly along the Kenai River where they are                
 interested in improving the river front edge of their property in             
 a manner that is habitat friendly for fish.  The department cannot            
 currently, other than through a competitive bid process, get money            
 to a private land owner.  They have been going through a federal              
 agency, which has that authority, and they have been passing the              
 money through to a local property owner based on a set of criteria            
 that the property owner must meet in order to receive the money.              
 It is a 50/50 match with 50 percent of the funding coming from the            
 state and the land owner providing the other 50 percent.  The                 
 funding the department is currently using to do these kinds of                
 projects comes from two sources:  (1) criminal settlement monies              
 relating to the Exxon Valdez disaster; and (2) money from the                 
 National Marine Fisheries Service.  The department has allocated a            
 portion of those monies to go toward these kind of projects.                  
  SENATOR PEARCE  said as she recalls, the legislature already gave            
 the department specific authority to pass those monies to local               
 governments and it could then be granted to private citizens.   MR.           
 BRUCE  agreed that a portion of the money did go to the Kenai                 
 Peninsula Borough for some work there, but the remaining funds did            
 not go to them.  They did not get a mechanism within the department           
 to work with private land owners.  He added that the projects in              
 the program have been very popular and very successful.                       
 Number 120                                                                    
  SENATOR TAYLOR  expressed his continuing concern about habitat               
 enhancement on the Kenai River, particularly at flood time when the           
 river changes its course drastically.  He questioned if there was             
 a rationale here and an overall plan.   MR. BRUCE  replied the                
 department is looking at the long range, recognizing that the river           
 does flood, and they are trying to develop ways of protecting                 
 private property and maintaining the fish productivity of the river           
 for the long term.  He said the Kenai has attracted so much                   
 attention because if a very well known, highly regarded, highly               
 visited river that has some spectacular fishing opportunities, but            
 that doesn't mean to say that it is the only river in the state               
 that should get attention.                                                    
 Number 200                                                                    
  MR. BRUCE  discussed various methods being used for stream                   
 stabilization, such as revegatation, constructing structures that             
 prevent erosion, floating docks instead of fixed docks, etc.  He              
 also informed the members that he would provide them with an                  
 evaluation sheet of all the different projects that private land              
 owners applied for this year.                                                 
 Number 255                                                                    
  SENATOR TAYLOR  asked what part of natural erosion and geology does          
 the Department of Fish and Game not understand.   MR. BRUCE                   
 acknowledged that there are natural forces that will overwhelm even           
 the best human efforts, but he said he thinks there a lot of other            
 less extreme conditions that we can influence and we can mitigate.            
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  noted he has looked at different habitat enhancement         
 projects in other states that have been quite successful and at a             
 fairly low cost.  He suggested those are the types of projects the            
 department should be looking at.   MR. BRUCE  said what they are              
 doing right now is just one option, but this is an area that has a            
 lot of potential for fine tuning for particular circumstances both            
 for the habitat and the financial resources available.  He added              
 that  right now they have to go through another agency to award               
 these grants, which means overhead, and they believe it would be              
 more efficient to be able to do it within the Department of Fish &            
 Game.   CHAIRMAN LEMAN  said he'd like to see the department do               
 innovative things with these projects that will maximize the use of           
 the dollars, such as using volunteers, or using prison inmates,               
 Number 400                                                                    
  KEVIN BROOKS , Director, Division of Administrative Services,                
 Department of Fish and Game, speaking to Section 10, said the first           
 two repealers in that section apply to Fish and Game.  The cites of           
 Title 16 are repealers for the fish and game licensing statutes as            
 they currently read for vendor compensation.                                  
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked how many vendors would be affected if the $50          
 per year compensation in Section 2 were deleted or reduced.   MR.             
 BROOKS  replied it could be in the area of a couple hundred vendors;          
 there are 1,400 vendors statewide.  He said he agreed with the                
 Chairman's earlier comment that it serves as an enticement,                   
 especially in the more remote areas.                                          
 Number 505                                                                    
  NICO BUS , Acting Director, Division of Support Services, Department         
 of Natural Resources, speaking to Section 9, explained the                    
 repealers (AS 46.15.190 - AS 46.15.240) repeal the Water Resource             
 Board, which has not been funded or held meetings for three years.            
  SENATOR TAYLOR  expressed his concern that it is his understanding           
 that there are 4,000 permit applications awaiting action on water             
 rights.   MR. BUS  acknowledged there is a backlog, but he wasn't             
 sure the 4,000 figure was correct.  He said the Division of Mining            
 and Water Management handles those applications and they are                  
 working hard to process the applications in order to get rid of the           
 backlog.  He noted the Water Resource Board is strictly an advisory           
 board and they do not handle those applications.  He also pointed             
 out that a lot of the applications are renewals, and one of the               
 things the department is looking at is changing it from a yearly              
 renewal requirement to renewing every five or ten years.                      
 Number 550                                                                    
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked if there are some overlapping responsibilities         
 with the Soil and Water Conservation Board and the Water Resource             
 Board.   MR. BUS  said the Soil and Water Conservation  Board is              
 basically advising the commissioner and the governor on local area            
 districts, and he thought expanding their role could be looked at.            
 There being no further testimony on SB 215  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked for         
 the pleasure of the committee.                                                
  SENATOR PEARCE  moved that Section 1 be deleted from SB 215.                 
  CHAIRMEN LEMAN  objected.  A hand vote was taken with the following          
 result:  Senators Halford, Taylor and Pearce voted "Yea" and                  
 Chairman Leman voted "Nay."  The Chairman stated the motion                   
 SENATOR HALFORD moved that CSSB 215(RES) and the accompanying                 
 fiscal notes be passed out of committee with individual                       
 recommendations.  Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.                    
  TAPE 96-32, SIDE A                                                           
 Number 001                                                                    
 There being no further business to come before the committee, the             
 meeting was adjourned at 5:05 p.m.                                            

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