Legislature(2005 - 2006)HOUSE FINANCE 519

02/09/2005 01:30 PM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
<Bill Hearing Postponed>
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Moved CSHB 46(FIN) Out of Committee
HOUSE BILL NO. 76                                                                                                             
     An  Act relating  to the  Big  Game Commercial  Services                                                                   
     Board  and  to  the  regulation   of  big  game  hunting                                                                   
     services and transportation  services; and providing for                                                                   
     an effective date.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  RALPH  SAMUELS,  SPONSOR,  noted that  HB  76                                                                   
would re-establish the Big Game  Commercial Services Board to                                                                   
oversee  an important  industry  that exists  largely on  the                                                                   
basis of a healthy  wildlife population.  The  board sunset a                                                                   
decade  ago,   and  in  the  following   years,  professional                                                                   
hunters,  wildlife   biologists,  public  and   private  land                                                                   
managers and  the hunting  public themselves have  discovered                                                                   
the problems  associated with a decentralized,  uncoordinated                                                                   
system of licensing and regulating guides and transporters.                                                                     
Representative Samuels  discussed that an  audit commissioned                                                                   
by the 23  Alaska Legislature  and released in December 2003,                                                                   
recommended  that  the Legislature  consider  re-establishing                                                                   
the  board.   Auditors concluded  after extensive  interviews                                                                   
with  affected   agencies,  land  owners  and   hunters  that                                                                   
wildlife  populations  would benefit  from  more  coordinated                                                                   
enforcement of  existing laws,  and that consumer  protection                                                                   
and  hunter-client  safety could  be  improved.   The  Alaska                                                                   
Board  of  Game  has  also  asked  repeatedly  that  a  guide                                                                   
licensing board be re-established.                                                                                              
Representative Samuels summarized  that the bill would create                                                                   
a seven-member  board within the Department of  Community and                                                                   
Economic  Development.   Two members  would represent  active                                                                   
registered  guide-outfitters, two  members would be  licensed                                                                   
transporters, the Board of Game  would assign one member, one                                                                   
member would  represent private  landholders, and  one member                                                                   
would represent  the public.   The  bill would also  increase                                                                   
from $1,000 to $5,000 dollars,  the maximum civil penalty for                                                                   
disciplinary purposes.                                                                                                          
2:20:57 PM                                                                                                                    
PAT   DAVIDSON,  LEGISLATIVE   AUDITOR,   LEGISLATIVE   AUDIT                                                                   
DIVISION,  advised  that the  purpose  of  the audit  was  to                                                                   
   · The impact that the absence of a professional licensing                                                                    
     board for guides and transporters has had on the                                                                           
     enforcement of guiding statutes;                                                                                           
   · The appropriateness of the fines and other enforcement                                                                     
     mechanism; and                                                                                                             
   · The adequacy of the current reporting requirements for                                                                     
Ms.  Davidson noted  with  the termination  of  the Big  Game                                                                   
Commercial  Services Board,  there has  been no  professional                                                                   
oversight of  licensed guides  and transporters.   She listed                                                                   
the  various   land  managers  in   the  State  who   do  the                                                                   
        1. National Park Service                                                                                                
        2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service                                                                                       
        3. U.S. Forest Service                                                                                                  
        4. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)                                                                                      
        5. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of                                                                   
          Mining Land and Water                                                                                                 
Ms. Davidson  noted that  agencies have  indicated that  they                                                                   
would  welcome a  more  vigorous, centralized  licensing  and                                                                   
regulatory  board to  oversee  transporters and  to a  lesser                                                                   
extent, guides.  When the Big  Game Commercial Services Board                                                                   
sunset, many of the consumer protection  and/or best business                                                                   
practice statutes and regulations were also eliminated.                                                                         
Ms.   Davidson  continued,   guiding   activity   contributes                                                                   
conservatively  $40 million  a year to  the State's  economy.                                                                   
While most of the client surveys  indicate a positive hunting                                                                   
experience,  many that  did report  dissatisfaction, the  key                                                                   
concerns  were  consumer protection  issues.    Based on  the                                                                   
Division's review,  it was  concluded that statutory  changes                                                                   
should  include "best  business practices"  to be  warranted.                                                                   
That type  of change  provides important consumer  protection                                                                   
and hunter safety elements.  While  the re-establishment of a                                                                   
guide   board   is  not   essential   to   making   statutory                                                                   
improvements, a  reestablished board  is likely to  provide a                                                                   
more dynamic  regulatory regimen.   Allowing the  revision of                                                                   
regulations   on  a   regular  basis   intended  to   enhance                                                                   
professionalism by guides, maintains  consumer protection and                                                                   
provides for hunter safety.                                                                                                     
Ms.   Davidson    said   if    the   Legislature    considers                                                                   
reestablishing the board, the Division recommends:                                                                              
   · The board be limited to setting the minimum competency                                                                     
     requirement for licensure; and                                                                                             
   · The board works with the Division of Occupational                                                                          
     Licensing   to   enforce    statutory   and   regulatory                                                                   
     requirement for licensees.                                                                                                 
Vice-Chair  Stoltze asked  if  the Division  of  Occupational                                                                   
Licensing had  made a  good faith effort  because he  did not                                                                   
want to award bad behavior.  Ms.  Davidson explained that her                                                                   
comments resulted  from providing  sunset audits  for various                                                                   
boards and  commissions over the last  15 years.  One  of the                                                                   
things that  the Division realized  was that boards  are more                                                                   
active in updating  regulations and responding  to changes in                                                                   
the profession,  which typically  does not happen  when there                                                                   
is  not a  board.   She concluded  that  there is  no one  to                                                                   
2:25:53 PM                                                                                                                    
In  response to  Vice-Chair  Stoltze, Ms.  Davidson  reported                                                                   
that they did  not attempt to analyze what  that Division did                                                                   
or did not  do.  There is  nothing in statute  or regulations                                                                   
to  address  best  practices.    One  of  the  keys  to  best                                                                   
practices is  to have a written  contract.  When there  is no                                                                   
contract between the client and  the guide, then the Division                                                                   
can ask investigators to visit  the compliant, however, there                                                                   
will be no written criteria.                                                                                                    
2:28:02 PM                                                                                                                    
MATT  ROBUS,  DIRECTOR, DIVISION  OF  WILDLIFE  CONSERVATION,                                                                   
DEPARTMENT  OF  FISH &  GAME,  testified  in support  of  the                                                                   
legislation.  The Board of Game  and the Department of Fish &                                                                   
Game both support the bill, as  it would be an aid for proper                                                                   
management.    The State  needs  to  have some  control  over                                                                   
commercial  use of  wildlife.   A board would  allow all  the                                                                   
industry to come together to form  new regulations and change                                                                   
industry  standards.    When the  control  resides  within  a                                                                   
department,  there   is  access  but  not  in   an  open  and                                                                   
centralized format.                                                                                                             
Mr. Robus added  that the Department of Fish  & Game provides                                                                   
expertise  to the Board  of Game.   The  Board of Game  makes                                                                   
most of the wildlife  regulations in the State.   He spoke to                                                                   
measures and  restrictions.  He  pointed out that  there have                                                                   
been convoluted  attempts to write regulations  in the State,                                                                   
which address conflict.                                                                                                         
Mr.  Robus noted  that  the  Department acknowledges  that  a                                                                   
board  would  be a  good  starting  compromise.   Over  time,                                                                   
regulations  will address  the problems  that have  surfaced.                                                                   
The  Board  of  Game will  manage  the  biological  "side  of                                                                   
things"  and both  guiding and  transport  will be  addressed                                                                   
through legislation.                                                                                                            
Vice-Chair Stoltze referenced  Section 6, the violations of a                                                                   
State or  federal law  or regulations  that are  inconsistent                                                                   
with State  law.  He stated that  he did not want  to endorse                                                                   
anything that  was in  violation of federal  law.   Mr. Robus                                                                   
responded  that  the  federal   government  has  jurisdiction                                                                   
within  some of  the  conservation system  units.   There  is                                                                   
guiding  allowed in certain  parts of  refuges and  reserves,                                                                   
with  rules imposed  by the  federal government,  not by  the                                                                   
State.   He  pointed  out  that  there are  federal  wildlife                                                                   
regulations  even on  State  managed lands.    A layering  of                                                                   
State  and federal  wildlife law  is in  place, which  varies                                                                   
depending on the piece of land.                                                                                                 
2:34:41 PM                                                                                                                    
RICK  THOMPSON,  (TESTIFIED  VIA   TELECONFERENCE),  REGIONAL                                                                   
MANAGER,  DIVISION OF  MINING LAND AND  WATER, DEPARTMENT  OF                                                                   
NATURAL  RESOURCES,   ANCHORAGE,   voiced  support   for  the                                                                   
legislation,  which should  help the  Division do their  work                                                                   
more efficiently.                                                                                                               
2:35:25 PM                                                                                                                    
JOE  KLUTSCH,  (TESTIFIED  VIA   TELECONFERENCE),  PRESIDENT,                                                                   
ALASKA   PROFESSIONAL  HUNTERS   ASSOCIATION,  KING   SALMON,                                                                   
testified in support of the legislation.   He emphasized that                                                                   
the  guiding  component  facilitates  up  to  $2  million  in                                                                   
private  funds, going  to tag  administration.   He  observed                                                                   
that guides  are subject to  multiple regulations  by various                                                                   
agencies.    Mr.  Klutsch  stressed that  there  is  a  basic                                                                   
disconnect  between  mission  assignments,  jurisdiction  and                                                                   
something comprehensive that works  for all.  The Board would                                                                   
allow discussion  among the key players and  he urged passage                                                                   
of the bill.                                                                                                                    
2:42:06 PM                                                                                                                    
BOB  FITHIAN,   (TESTIFIED  VIA  TELECONFERENCE),   EXECUTIVE                                                                   
DIRECTOR,  ALASKA  PROFESSIONAL  HUNTERS  ASSOCIATION,  LOWER                                                                   
TONSINA, testified  in support  of the legislation  and urged                                                                   
that it be moved from Committee.                                                                                                
2:42:58 PM                                                                                                                    
KIM  FRANKLIN,  (TESTIFIED  VIA   TELECONFERENCE),  NORTHWEST                                                                   
ARCTIC BOROUGH  PLANNING DEPARTMENT,  KOTZEBUE, testified  in                                                                   
support  of  the  legislation,  which  would  strengthen  the                                                                   
oversight  of  guides  and transporters.    Such  legislation                                                                   
should ensure  that it  has significant public  participation                                                                   
from private  landowners, municipal and borough  governments,                                                                   
where  guides and  transporters  go to  hunt big  game.   She                                                                   
recommended   that   regulations   be  adopted   only   after                                                                   
significant   input  by  affected   villages,  boroughs   and                                                                   
Ms. Franklin  noted that the  Borough is concerned  about the                                                                   
impact that the  current unregulated hunts would  have on the                                                                   
resources  within   the  Northwest   Arctic  Borough.     She                                                                   
suggested  that  the  current  trend would  lead  to  a  huge                                                                   
negative impact on resources and  ability for local residents                                                                   
to obtain food in the future.                                                                                                   
2:46:07 PM                                                                                                                    
PETE  SCHAEFFER,  (TESTIFIED  VIA  TELECONFERENCE),  KOTZEBUE                                                                   
FISH  AND GAME  ADVISORY  COMMITTEE, KOTZEBUE,  testified  in                                                                   
support of the  legislation.  He stated that  the legislation                                                                   
includes a methodology for adequate  resource management.  He                                                                   
noted the current lack of enforcement  options, which adds to                                                                   
the  significant  transporting  issues.   He  pointed  out  a                                                                   
concern with  transporters in  the delicate watershed  areas.                                                                   
Mr. Schaeffer  advised that the  title lacked any  mention of                                                                   
transporters,  and   questioned  if  there  was   an  implied                                                                   
2:50:11 PM                                                                                                                    
ROBERT HARDY, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE),  MAT-SU, warned                                                                   
that boards could  move from one extreme to  another and that                                                                   
members of  the public would  then become disenfranchised  as                                                                   
the board becomes more politicized.   He pointed out that the                                                                   
proposed board  appeared to be weighted toward  industry with                                                                   
insignificant public  participation.  Mr. Hardy  thought that                                                                   
the ability to redraft guide areas  could become divisive and                                                                   
that predatory control could also be controversial.                                                                             
Mr.  Hardy   thought  that  the  reporting   requirement  for                                                                   
suspected violations  is too lenient  and that he  would like                                                                   
to see a  tighter timeframe.   He added that as  written, the                                                                   
legislation  doesn't decrease  or restrict  expansion of  the                                                                   
industry,  nor does it  enhance opportunities.   He  stressed                                                                   
that the  industry is  highly competitive  and that  he would                                                                   
like to  see industry contribute  more to the  development of                                                                   
resources.    He recommended  "trophy  fees"  for  individual                                                                   
2:56:03 PM                                                                                                                    
CYNTHIA  HORA,   (TESTIFIED  VIA  TELECONFERENCE),   ATTORNEY                                                                   
REPRESENTING THE  NORTHWEST ARCTIC BOROUGH,  ANCHORAGE, noted                                                                   
that she  would make  suggested  changes to  the text of  the                                                                   
bill.   She spoke  to the board's  composition.   The Borough                                                                   
supports  the  concept of  limited  industry  representation.                                                                   
Ms.  Hora  understood  that  there   would  be  an  amendment                                                                   
proposed that would  require 4 members from  the industry and                                                                   
5 members  not representing the  industry; the  Borough would                                                                   
support  that amendment.   The Borough  would recommend  that                                                                   
the 2 public  members not hold a license under  this chapter.                                                                   
Ms. Hora  recommended that  a member  should have resided  in                                                                   
Alaska for at  least ten years, requirements  of the original                                                                   
Ms. Hora  referenced Section  5, which  involves the  board's                                                                   
authority   to   adopt   regulations.       She   recommended                                                                   
incorporating language  from Pages 17  & 19, which  refers to                                                                   
the  board's ability  to amend.    Additionally, Section  30,                                                                   
Subsection G, language  be moved to the board's  authority to                                                                   
adopt  regulations.     She   addressed  Section   6,  noting                                                                   
Legislative   Audit's  concern   with  game  management   and                                                                   
consumer  protection.   Ms. Hora  added that  the Borough  is                                                                   
also  concerned  with  environmental   aspects,  and  offered                                                                   
suggested  language in  Section  6 to  address  environmental                                                                   
violations.  Section 8, #2, adds language "in Alaska".                                                                          
Section 25,  Subsection 4, adds  language "borough  land" and                                                                   
in  Section 35,  which  addresses requiring  permission,  the                                                                   
Borough would like to be included.   In addition to requiring                                                                   
permission,  Ms. Hora  recommended that  the statute  require                                                                   
proof in the  initial application phase.  In  Section 31, the                                                                   
Borough supports adding language a "political subdivision".                                                                     
Ms. Hora summarized  concerns that the Northwest  Borough has                                                                   
voiced  and  that  the  term  guide/outfitter  has  not  been                                                                   
defined.   She offered to  work directly with  Representative                                                                   
Samuels and Representative Joule's staff.                                                                                       
3:04:05 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Weyhrauch   asked  if  amendments   would  be                                                                   
incorporated.     Co-Chair  Meyer  replied  that   there  are                                                                   
presently two amendments before the Committee.                                                                                  
Vice-Chair Stoltze  requested that someone from  the industry                                                                   
be present to address the regulatory amendments.                                                                                
3:05:06 PM                                                                                                                    
PAUL  JOHNSON,   ALASKA  PROFESSIONAL  HUNTERS   ASSOCIATION,                                                                   
GUIDE, JUNEAU, stated  that he has been an  Alaskan guide for                                                                   
over  30-years.   He acknowledged  that there  is no  perfect                                                                   
legislation  but urged that  the bill move  forward.   It has                                                                   
been 10 years since  there was a board and  during that time,                                                                   
there  have been  many problems.   He  mentioned the  private                                                                   
landholders  who have  been responsive  and  involved in  the                                                                   
Mr. Johnson recommended  that the board be kept  at 7 members                                                                   
for cost reasons, eliminating  public members.  He urged that                                                                   
the legislation quickly pass from Committee.                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Stoltze  clarified that  the board intends  to pay                                                                   
for itself.   Mr. Johnson acknowledged that  was correct; the                                                                   
guides will  pick up most of the  costs.  He added  that this                                                                   
is "one stop  shopping" for the Department and  boards.  When                                                                   
every business  promotes regulations,  the result is  that it                                                                   
becomes very scattered.   He guaranteed that  the legislation                                                                   
would save  the State administrative  costs.  In  response to                                                                   
Vice-Chair Stoltze, Mr. Johnson  reiterated that he supported                                                                   
a 7-member  board,  which would  be more  efficient and  cost                                                                   
3:10:14 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair   Stoltze  asked  about   enforcement  fines   and                                                                   
penalties associated with the bill.                                                                                             
Representative  Foster  mentioned  faxed  testimony  received                                                                   
from a member of  his district and asked that  it be included                                                                   
in member's packets.                                                                                                            
Representative Samuels commented  that the biggest concern he                                                                   
heard  voiced  was reference  to  exclusive  use areas.    He                                                                   
stressed  that HB  76 has  nothing to  do with  that.  HB  76                                                                   
takes only  the licensing  duties and moves  them to  a board                                                                   
with some expertise.  He acknowledged  that there is inherent                                                                   
conflict between the guides and  the transporters.  The board                                                                   
would simply  creates a forum  to address problems  that come                                                                   
Representative  Samuels indicated that  the exact  wording of                                                                   
the bill  passed the  Senate last  year.  A  lot of  work has                                                                   
already gone into the bill.  He  offered to work with members                                                                   
of the  Committee to address  their concerns.   He reiterated                                                                   
intent to establish only a framework.                                                                                           
Vice-Chair  Stoltze referenced  language in  Section 6,  Line                                                                   
23,  "fined  more than  $1,000  dollars  in the  previous  12                                                                   
months".   He  asked  if it  would  be considered  a  serious                                                                   
offense and thought the language might be too strict.                                                                           
MAJOR  HOWARD   STARBARD,  (TESTIFIED  VIA   TELECONFERENCE),                                                                   
ADMINISTRATIVE COMMANDER,  ALASKA STATE TROOPERS,  ANCHORAGE,                                                                   
responded to Section  6, indicating that the  federal section                                                                   
was added  and was not  limited to Alaska  as there  are many                                                                   
guides  who  come  from  the lower  48,  who  have  extensive                                                                   
records.   The  State  has no  authority  to  keep them  from                                                                   
guiding in Alaska.  It is not restricted.                                                                                       
Major Starbard  addressed the  tiered system  penalty.   If a                                                                   
person is  convicted of a violation  of the law and  they are                                                                   
fined more than  $1,000 dollars and/or imprisoned  for 5-days                                                                   
or more,  they could  not renew  their licenses for  5-years.                                                                   
The tiered system has made that  more reasonable so if during                                                                   
that 5-year sentence, instead  it would be changed to 1-year.                                                                   
He noted that the point system  would be similar to that used                                                                   
for a driver's license.                                                                                                         
3:18:42 PM                                                                                                                    
Major Starbard  continued that  the proposed system  would be                                                                   
much more  reasonable.   He pointed out  that in  many cases,                                                                   
guides  are  fined  just  under  the  $1,000  dollars  simply                                                                   
because their  livelihood would  be lost  for 5-years  at the                                                                   
$1,000 level.                                                                                                                   
Vice-Chair  Stoltze asked Representative  Samuels to  address                                                                   
his intent.  Representative Samuels  replied that the penalty                                                                   
would be  spread out.  Vice-Chair  Stoltze asked if  it would                                                                   
have  to be  a  hunting  violation.   Representative  Samuels                                                                   
replied that it  would have to be a State or  federal hunting                                                                   
violation.   He  emphasized that  the language  had not  been                                                                   
Vice-Chair  Stoltze  was  concerned  how  the  decisions  and                                                                   
penalties  would affect  "real people  and real  lives".   He                                                                   
stated  that  the $1,000  fine  was  a lot.    Representative                                                                   
Samuels  reiterated that  none of the  definitions have  been                                                                   
changed, however,  the fine  structure was changed  slightly.                                                                   
Vice-Chair Stoltze  requested that someone from  the industry                                                                   
3:23:18 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Johnson  pointed out  that the  courts have been  holding                                                                   
the fines  at $999 dollars so  that the license would  not be                                                                   
revoked.   He  acknowledged  that  situations  do happen  but                                                                   
urged that the bill not be held up.                                                                                             
Vice-Chair   Stoltze   maintained   his  concern   with   the                                                                   
possibilities, which could be fined.                                                                                            
Representative  Joule asked about  the fiscal note  submitted                                                                   
from the Department of Community  & Economic Development.  He                                                                   
elaborated that  most hunting activities come  from areas not                                                                   
represented in the note.                                                                                                        
RICK URION,  DIRECTOR, OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING,  DEPARTMENT OF                                                                   
COMMUNITY AND  ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT,  replied that  the staff                                                                   
that  prepares  the notes  has  had  years of  experience  in                                                                   
government.   Representative Joule  indicated that  he wanted                                                                   
to  be guaranteed  that the  "rest"  of Alaska  does not  get                                                                   
"lost" and that  the Board represents interests  in all parts                                                                   
of Alaska.                                                                                                                      
Mr.  Urion assured  members that  the person  that wrote  the                                                                   
note  did not  intend to  slight  any portion  of the  State.                                                                   
Representative Joule reiterated  his concern.  Representative                                                                   
Samuels commented that the distances  were similar as between                                                                   
Ketchikan and Juneau to Anchorage  and Barrow and Kotzebue to                                                                   
Anchorage  for  scheduled  meetings.    Representative  Joule                                                                   
hoped that was the case.                                                                                                        
Mr. Urion  clarified for the  record that the  Department and                                                                   
the  Division  have  aggressively  attempted  to  change  the                                                                   
current situation.   He  pointed out  that only his  Division                                                                   
had submitted amendments last year.                                                                                             
3:29:07 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Weyhrauch  inquired if board members  would be                                                                   
able to  make decisions.  Mr.  Urion understood that  was the                                                                   
Representative   Weyhrauch  asked   if  language  should   be                                                                   
included  that specifies  that members  deliberate and  vote.                                                                   
Representative  Samuels replied  that  it would  be the  same                                                                   
noting  the inherent  conflict between  the transporters  and                                                                   
the guides.   He acknowledged  that there are  other concerns                                                                   
that Representative Joule's amendments would address.                                                                           
3:31:45 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Meyer  stated that  the bill would  be heard  on the                                                                   
February 10,  2005 meeting and  he anticipated that  it would                                                                   
move from Committee at that time.                                                                                               
Representative  Foster  asked   about  fines  for  littering.                                                                   
Representative   Samuels  did  not   think  those   would  be                                                                   
included, as they are not hunting violations.                                                                                   
Representative  Foster discussed  hunters leaving messes  and                                                                   
if  they would  be fined  for that.   Representative  Samuels                                                                   
acknowledged the conflict between  transporters and guides is                                                                   
a major issue.   He emphasized that the legislation  does not                                                                   
change  the definition  of a transporter  and the  exclusions                                                                   
included in  that category guarantee  that the  135 operators                                                                   
are not included in the bill's language.                                                                                        
3:35:13 PM                                                                                                                    
HB 76 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.                                                                          

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