Legislature(2009 - 2010)

04/15/2009 05:21 PM House FIN

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HOUSE BILL NO. 207                                                                                                              
"An Act increasing the allowances  for injury, disability, or                                                                   
heart  attack   payable  from   the  fisherman's   fund;  and                                                                   
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
5:22:07 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Hawker  solicited  any   discussion  requests  from                                                                   
committee  members.  None  being offered,  he  discussed  the                                                                   
order of business.                                                                                                              
5:24:07 PM                                                                                                                    
JOHN  BITNEY, DIRECTOR,  LEGISLATIVE  OFFICE,  OFFICE OF  THE                                                                   
GOVERNOR  provided   a  brief   summary  of  the   bill.  The                                                                   
fisherman's  fund is  in effect a  workers compensation  fund                                                                   
for commercial fishermen.  It is financed by  fees applied to                                                                   
required  commercial  fishing  licenses  and  permits.  Since                                                                   
1959, the  amount that can be  claimed for injuries  has been                                                                   
capped  at $2,500.  Given  the rise  in  medical costs  since                                                                   
1959, the bill  would increase the claim cap  to $10,000. Mr.                                                                   
Bitney pointed  out that  currently, claims exceeding  $2,500                                                                   
must  be  taken  before  a review  board  for  validation  of                                                                   
possible compensation.                                                                                                          
5:27:54 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Bitney felt  that by increasing the compensation  cap the                                                                   
need for fishermen to stand before  the review board would be                                                                   
eliminated  in most cases.  This would  simplify the  process                                                                   
for fishermen attempting to receive  compensation for medical                                                                   
costs due to a work related injury.                                                                                             
JAKE HAMBURG,  STAFF TO SENATOR PASKVAN, stated  that Senator                                                                   
Paskvan supports the bill for  a number of reasons. There are                                                                   
135 commercial fishing permit  holders in the Fairbanks North                                                                   
Star borough.  He added  that commercial  fishermen  from the                                                                   
district  brought in  1.2 million  pounds of  caught fish  in                                                                   
2008  and  that  commercial  fishing   impacts  the  cost  of                                                                   
numerous things around the state.                                                                                               
5:31:17 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Hawker  asked how the fisherman's fund  is financed.                                                                   
Mr. Bitney  replied that  surcharges and  fees from  required                                                                   
crew licenses  and permits finance the fund.  Co-Chair Hawker                                                                   
wondered if the  cost of the permits and licenses  would need                                                                   
to  be  raised  in  order to  counterweigh  a  raise  in  the                                                                   
compensation cap.   Mr. Bitney  replied that in  recent years                                                                   
more has been paid into the fund  than has been paid out. The                                                                   
fund has  been maintaining  itself well  and currently  holds                                                                   
5:33:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Hawker  opened public  testimony. There  being none,                                                                   
public testimony was closed.                                                                                                    
5:34:23 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Foster   MOVED  to  REPORT  HB   207  out  of                                                                   
committee with the attached fiscal notes.                                                                                       
Vice-Chair Thomas  OBJECTED. He wondered if he had  a vote in                                                                   
committee   as  a  commercial   fisherman.  Co-Chair   Hawker                                                                   
informed  the committee  that  the legislative  legal  ruling                                                                   
states that  the conflict of interest  rules do not  apply in                                                                   
5:36:00 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Thomas  commented that the fund has  existed since                                                                   
1951. He shared that required  health insurance for deckhands                                                                   
has forced him  to hire only Alaska Native  deckhands because                                                                   
they receive  public health services.  He said  insurance for                                                                   
non-Native deckhands can cost up to $3,000 per year.                                                                            
HB 207 was REPORTED out of committee  with recommendations of                                                                   
individual members and attached fiscal note.                                                                                    
5:37:56 PM                                                                                                                    

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