Legislature(1997 - 1998)

03/05/1997 01:40 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  HOUSE BILL 13                                                                
       "An  Act  relating   to  marine  safety  training   and                 
       education programs."                                                    
  REPRESENTATIVE ALAN AUSTERMAN stated  that the Alaska Marine                 
  Safety Education  Association (AMSEA) has  been operating in                 
  the State  of Alaska for 12  years.  The primary  purpose of                 
  the organization is to reduce the loss of life and injury in                 
  the  Alaskan  marine  environment  by  providing   education                 
  through  a statewide  network  of  qualified  marine  safety                 
  AMSEA  provides   the  safety  training   required  by   the                 
  Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Act  of 1988 to communities                 
  throughout Alaska.   The  Act, which  took  effect in  1991,                 
  requires  a  minimum in  safety  training and  equipment for                 
  commercial fishing vessels.                                                  
  Representative  Austerman continued  that  AMSEA also  helps                 
  Alaskans by providing marine safety instructor training, and                 
  that some of these teachers  teach drill instructor courses.                 
  Other  marine  safety  instructors  also  train  the  Alaska                 
  boating  and  fishing public,  including  many  children and                 
  adults, in marine safety.  Of the 7,300 people AMSEA trained                 
  in 1995, 2000 were from  the commercial fishing industry and                 
  3,700 were children.                                                         
  According to a study conducted in  1995 by the Native Health                 
  Service, the AMSEA training significantly reduced fatalities                 
  among  commercial fishermen,  thus,  coinciding with  a  50%                 
  percent drop in fishing  fatalities in Alaska over the  past                 
  four  years. Representative  Austerman suggested  that AMSEA                 
  deserves  the  State's intervention  to  ensure  a long-term                 
  stable funding source.                                                       
  He pointed out  that the Fishermen's Fund (AS 23.35.060) was                 
  created  before  statehood.    One  hundred percent  of  the                 
  fishermen's fund  is provided by commercial  fishing license                 
  fees.  Sixty percent  of license fees are dedicated  to that                 
  fund.      Since   commercial   fishermen  are   often   the                 
  beneficiaries  of the  required marine  safety  training, it                 
  would be appropriate to  allow part of the interest  of that                 
  fund to be  used to  support some of  AMSEA's marine  safety                 
  Representative Austerman  pointed out  that  the note  which                 
  passed out of the  House Finance Committee last year  was in                 
  the amount of  $150 thousand  dollars.  The  group would  be                 
  comfortable with that amount, although,  he pointed out that                 
  current interest earnings for the fund  are in the amount of                 
  $450 thousand dollars.                                                       
  Representative Mulder asked if the  program had considered a                 
  fee-based structure for  funding.  Representative  Austerman                 
  requested  that  Mr. Dugan,  the  Executive Director  of the                 
  program respond.                                                             
  Representative Martin  asked the amount  currently available                 
  in  the   fund.    Representative  Austerman   replied  that                 
  approximately  $7.367   million  dollars   remains  in   the                 
  Fishermen's  Fund.    The Department  of  Treasury  would be                 
  responsible  for   any  investment.     Co-Chair  Therriault                 
  corrected that  the current  balance in  the account was  $9                 
  million dollars.  Representative G. Davis questioned why the                 
  fiscal note indicated only a 5.3% interest rate.                             
  (AMSEA),  PETERSBURG,  responded  to  Representative  Mulder                 
  explaining  that AMSEA currently  uses a fee-based structure                 
  for most of the  provided training.  A sliding scale  fee is                 
  used, which varies  depending upon  the need.   Most of  the                 
  fees are used  to pay the  instructor and not to  supplement                 
  the program.                                                                 
  At the end  of last year, the  program was faced with  a $50                 
  thousand dollar budget, reducing the  staff to one person to                 
  run the entire State program.  In October, 1996, the program                 
  received a federal grant  increasing that budget,  although,                 
  those funds end September  30, 1997.  There is  no guarantee                 
  of funding after that point.                                                 
  Representative J.  Davies inquired about the  needed amount.                 
  Mr.  Dugan  responded  that  the  program  would  need  $150                 
  thousand  dollars  to  stay  "afloat".   That  amount  would                 
  provide the core  program and staff  a 2.5 person office  to                 
  coordinate, administer and  instruct programs throughout the                 
  In response to  Representative Davies, Mr. Dugan  noted that                 
  his  office   had  provided   a  budget   detail  sheet   to                 
  Representative Austerman's office  last year.  A  handout of                 
  the budget detail  sheet was provided to  Committee members.                 
  [Attachment on file].                                                        
  Representative  Mulder  inquired   the  "range"  of  charges                 
  required  of the communities.   Mr. Dugan explained that the                 
  least  amount would be free and only for a very needy group.                 
  The highest amount charged was $65/hour.                                     
  Representative  Mulder  questioned  the  criteria  used   to                 
  determine if a  group had  "great need".   Mr. Dugan  stated                 
  that "great need"  could be used  to reference a  commercial                 
  fishermen  group  under  a federal  deadline  mandating  the                 
  training  before  the fishing  season  had begun  and before                 
  income  had begun  to come  in.   He suggested  that a  good                 
  example would be the Village  of Angoon on Admiralty Island,                 
  an area with a high level of unemployment.                                   
  Representative Mulder asked who was required to complete the                 
  AMSEA  training.    Mr. Dugan  explained  that  fishermen on                 
  documented fishing vessels  which fish in outside  waters or                 
  beyond the western coast would  be required.  Representative                 
  Mulder questioned how the "children"  aspect worked into the                 
  training.  Mr.  Dugan explained that  marine safety is  also                 
  taught to high  school children who  fish or crew on  boats.                 
  For younger  children, there  is an  abbreviated program  to                 
  familiarize them with boating devices and safety procedures.                 
  Mr.  Dugan  continued,  if  someone  were certified  in  the                 
  training, they would  then be  able to train  others.   That                 
  instruction would be beyond the regular level of instruction                 
  and is the core of the program.                                              
  Representative Mulder observed that once a funding mechanism                 
  is in place,  it becomes  close to impossible  to remove  it                 
  from the books.  Mr. Dugan pointed out with more instructors                 
  trained, the group  then will  be responsible to  administer                 
  the programs.                                                                
  KODIAK, testified in support of the legislation.  He pointed                 
  out that Alaska has ten times the national rate of drowning.                 
  Alaska is the only State which has no marine safety statutes                 
  or programs.   AMSEA  provides  in Alaska,  what many  other                 
  states government's are mandated to  provide.  He emphasized                 
  how important the  program is to the State.   He pointed out                 
  that previous funding  had been  provided through grants,  a                 
  program which now is "drying" up.   He urged the Committee's                 
  support of the legislation.                                                  
  AL  BURCH, (TESTIFIED  VIA  TELECONFERENCE), KODIAK,  voiced                 
  support of the legislation.  He  provided a brief history of                 
  fishing in Alaska.   He  spoke to the  resistance that  most                 
  fishermen have had  toward a  federal initiative to  mandate                 
  training and how that attitude  has changed through the many                 
  lives which  have been  saved because  of the  program.   He                 
  urged that a portion of the interest on the Fishermen's Fund                 
  be used to further save lives.                                               
  KODIAK, spoke in favor HB 13.  He stressed that AMSEA's work                 
  saves lives and how important the  training would be for the                 
  fishing communities.  The program  is an educational concern                 
  and would  be appropriately  funded through  the Fishermen's                 
  Fund.  Mr. Barker reiterated that  the training saves lives.                 
  FISHERMEN WIVES ASSOCIATION, KODIAK, testified in support of                 
  the legislation stressing the importance of the program.                     
  support of the legislation.  She noted the importance of the                 
  program  as  there   are  no  other  State   programs  which                 
  coordinate  any type of boating efforts.   She urged members                 
  to support the legislation.                                                  
  OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES,  voiced strong support of  HB
  13.  Drowning  in Alaska is  a major public health  problem;                 
  often there are more  drownings in the State than  there are                 
  deaths on public  highways.  He  advised that the Office  of                 
  Emergency Medical Services provided the first drowning study                 
  in 1979,  and recognized drowning  as a major  public health                 
  problem since then.  EMS is one of the agencies which helped                 
  form AMSEA and  has continued  to help fund  them through  a                 
  variety of federal grants since that time.  All those grants                 
  have  been  temporary.    Mr.   Johnson  stressed  that  the                 
  organization deserves stable funding.                                        
  Co-Chair Hanley asked  if the Governor had  included funding                 
  for that item in this year's budget.                                         
  that no funding  had been  included in the  FY98 budget  for                 
  Co-Chair Therriault asked  if it had been  acknowledged that                 
  only  AMSEA  be the  recipient of  the grant  for education.                 
  Representative   Austerman   responded   that    the   AMSEA                 
  organization, to date, has provided the training as a result                 
  of federal laws.   He agreed that as the program matures, it                 
  could be  placed into  the private  sector.   Representative                 
  Martin exclaimed that a 5.2% interest rate was a low rate.                   
  OF  REVENUE,  replied  that the  current  general investment                 
  funds include over one hundred smaller funds, some of which,                 
  through  statutory or  Attorney  General  opinions have  the                 
  right to receive  their own interest.  The  Fishermen's Fund                 
  is not one of those funds.  The Department of Administration                 
  determines which of  those funds are eligible  for interest.                 
  The  current agreement is  to pay  each organization  at the                 
  rate of  5.2% interest income.   The  State at this  time is                 
  reconsidering the practice with the intent to pay the entire                 
  interest received to each of the individual funds.                           
  (Tape Change HFC 97-46, Side 2).                                             
  Representative Martin asked  if there was a  major disaster,                 
  could the principle of the fund be used quickly.  Ms. Martin                 
  explained that there was a limit of $2,500 dollar per person                 
  cap to  the amount  paid out  of the  fund.   Representative                 
  Martin questioned the cap.                                                   
  Representative  Martin suggested that the amount provided to                 
  AMSEA should  be a guaranteed  amount rather  than a  moving                 
  amount  as  predetermined by  the  interest rate.   Co-Chair                 
  Therriault pointed out that the  language was permissive and                 
  that  the  Legislature  could appropriate  "none"  or  "all"                 
  through  the  budgeting   process.    Representative  Martin                 
  reiterated that a specific number should be guaranteed.  Co-                 
  Chair  Hanley  added  that  the  appropriation  would  be  a                 
  budgetary issue and  that any amount could  be appropriated.                 
  He  pointed  out  that  if  the  bill passes,  it  would  be                 
  accompanied  by  a  fiscal  note,  however, next  year,  the                 
  request would only  be a line  item in  the budget, open  to                 
  Representative  J.  Davies  asked where  the  money  for the                 
  fiscal note  would be  indicated  in the  budget.   Co-Chair                 
  Therriault  distributed the  House Finance  Committee  a new                 
  zero  fiscal  note,  suggesting  that  through   the  budget                 
  process, the amount would be determined.   In the  past, the                 
  Department   of   Administration  placed   the   request  in                 
  designated  grants component in  Department of Community and                 
  Regional Affairs budget.  Representative  J. Davies asked if                 
  the money was  appropriated, would  it appear as  designated                 
  program  receipts.    Co-Chair Therriault  stated  that  the                 
  Department would be responsible to show a reduction in order                 
  to authorize requested funding for the program.                              
  Representative  G. Davis MOVED to delete language on Page 1,                 
  Lines  9  & 10,  "to  the  Alaska  Marine  Safety  Education                 
  Association".  There being NO OBJECTION, it was adopted.                     
  Representative  Martin  MOVED  to  change  Page 1,  Line  8,                 
  deleting "50  percent" and  inserting "up  to $250  thousand                 
  dollars".    Co-Chair Hanley  believed  that could  create a                 
  problem  when  $250  thousand  dollars  was  not  earned  in                 
  interest  income.   He  reiterated that  the issue  could be                 
  addressed in the budget process.                                             
  Co-Chair    Therriault    OBJECTED    to    Amendment    #2.                 
  Representative J. Davies  voiced support to keep  the number                 
  "floating",  reminding  members  that there  will  always be                 
  pressure to keep it as small as possible.                                    
  A roll call vote was taken on the MOTION.                                    
       IN FAVOR:      G. Davis, Martin, Mulder                                 
       OPPOSED:       Foster, Kohring, J.  Davies, Therriault,                 
  Representatives  Grussendorf,  Kelly,  and  Moses  were  not                 
  present for the vote.                                                        
  The MOTION FAILED (3-5).                                                     
  Representative  G.  Davis  noted  for  the  record  that  he                 
  supported the  work of  AMSEA and  that the  reason for  his                 
  amendment  was not  intended as  a personal  threat to  that                 
  Representative Foster MOVED to report CS  HB 13 (FIN) out of                 
  Committee  with  individual  recommendations  and  with  the                 
  accompanying fiscal notes.   Co-Chair Hanley disclosed  that                 
  he  had  a  conflict  of  interest  as  he  does  acquire  a                 
  commercial fishing license and has  utilized the AMSEA fund.                 
  Representative J. Davies requested more discussion regarding                 
  the fiscal note.  He understood that a fiscal note needed to                 
  be funded  for the first year and would then be dropped into                 
  the budget line items the second year.                                       
  Co-Chair Hanley commented  that had  been the approach  last                 
  year.  Conference  Committee often  reduces fiscal notes  to                 
  squeeze  them within a certain  dollar amount.  He suggested                 
  that the  fiscal impact of  the legislation be  discussed in                 
  the   Department   of   Community  and   Regional   Affair's                 
  Subcommittee priority.   He added  that the Governor  should                 
  offer an amendment to cover the requested dollar amount.                     
  Co-Chair Therriault said  if a statutory  change is made  to                 
  start a  new program,  the first  year, it  would be  funded                 
  through  a fiscal note,  thereafter, it would  be built into                 
  the base  of the  budget.  Because  HB 13 is  permissive, it                 
  could be either way.                                                         
  Representative  J.  Davies   foresaw  a  problem   with  the                 
  subcommittee  trying to  place  money into  a  budget for  a                 
  program not  yet signed  into effect.   Co-Chair  Therriault                 
  advised  that  to  appropriate  to  the program,  would  not                 
  require that  the program be  in effect.   Representative J.                 
  Davies voiced concern that there clearly was a fiscal impact                 
  which should be noted  in the fiscal note.   Co-Chair Hanley                 
  responded  that  all  fiscal  notes  accompany the  bill  to                 
  Conference Committee.                                                        
  CS HB 13  (FIN) was  reported out  of Committee  with a  "no                 
  recommendation" and with zero fiscal notes by the Department                 
  of Labor dated 2/21/97 and the House Finance Committee.                      

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