Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/07/1994 08:15 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 343 - Resident Sport & Hunting Licenses Number 163 REPRESENTATIVE TERRY MARTIN, PRIME SPONSOR HB 343, stated HB 343 is a common sense bill which attempts to lower administrative costs of issuing licenses every year and make it more convenient to the residents by offering the option of buying a one, two or three year license for sport fishing, hunting or trapping. He said there is also an attempt to use a different type of paper for the licenses themselves. He noted that there were 176,000 fishing licenses issued last year and 182,000 issued the year before involving revenues of $6.6 million. Hunting licenses brought in revenue of $5.2 million. He stated there is a lot of paper work involved each year and this bill would decrease the load on ADF&G. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN explained there is a $5 incentive each year; if a person wants to advance their license for three years, they will save $5 each year. He felt multiple year licenses will save ADF&G a lot of work and money. He said ADF&G feels there will be many people who will get multi- year licenses and go out of state, be a nonresident and come back to the state. He commented long time residents and property owners are known and he felt it will not be a problem. Number 244 REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY stated on page 3, line 21 the bill talks about an annual free license for disabled veterans. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN responded he believes it was an oversight as there is no reason why a free license cannot also be a multi-year license. REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY felt if the intent of the bill is to make it simpler for people, the free license does not accomplish that. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN recommended the committee make that change. REPRESENTATIVE DAVID FINKELSTEIN asked if Representative Martin was suggesting multi-year licenses will only be available to people who have lived in the state 10-15 years or own property. Number 261 REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied he was not sure what to suggest. He knows people who go fishing every year and he did not know what criteria should be used to prove they are not going to go out of state, become a nonresident and sneak back in to save $5. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked if there was any relationship between the criteria set in HB 343 or existing law. He said he did not recall owning property as being a significant factor in the current regulation. Number 280 REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied it is not. He said he was just trying to think of ideas to help solve the problem of people cheating and misusing their multi-year licenses, which ADF&G feels is an important issue. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON stated sections eight and nine address nonresidents. He said an annual license as opposed to a multi-year license in those sections is what should be kept in regulation. The only difference is that nondisabled people get the license at the annual fee and at half of the nonresident game fee, but if a person is disabled 50 percent or is in the Alaska Territorial Guard, they get an annual license free. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN said he was not anxious to change military licenses. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN commented the sponsor summary says "HB 343 would allow military personnel, and their dependents, who are permanently stationed in the state but do not qualify as a "resident", to obtain special annual nonresident military small game and sport fishing licenses at the same rate as the annual rate of a resident license." He asked how that relates to section eight. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied section eight would still require an annual license. He said it is like automobile tags; while nonresident military members are in the state of Alaska, they get a special fee rather than a nonresident fee. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said it seems that AS 16.05.340(d) says that nonresident military get their tags at one-half of the nonresident rate but in the sponsor summary, it says the nonresident military get it at the same fee as a resident. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied they get a special discount. Number 345 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON said under section eight, it states "the annual special nonresident military small game and sport fishing at the annual rate" and then says "big game..." issued at one-half of the nonresident rate. He said the difference is that one is small game and fishing and the other is big game. He explained what HB 343 does is give nonresident military small game and fishing licenses at the annual rate but it requires one-half of the nonresident rate for big game licenses. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said it appears in section eight, there are no substantive changes made in the law. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES felt if the sponsor summary was amended to read "it would also continue to allow..." REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said HB 343 is being described to accomplish two things that he does not think it actually does. Number 383 REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES felt the words "annual" has to be put in section eight because they get a special nonresident military license at the rate for the residential license, which then could entitle them to an annual, biennial, or triennial license. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN agreed but said the sponsor summary has two sentences in it; the first is correct and the second sentence does not have anything to do with the bill. REPRESENTATIVE ELDON MULDER remarked he liked the idea of multiple year licenses and asked Representative Martin if he would consider just doubling the fee on a biennial license and tripling the fee on a triennial license. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN said many people rely on licenses not just for the fun of sport but for food on the table. He said if they can pay the fee ahead of time for a two year or three year license, they are given an incentive of saving $5 each year. He added that the idea is to also decrease the demand on government. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked what it costs to replace a lost license. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied it costs five dollars. Number 450 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN observed when reviewing the initial year, the second year, and the third year of proposed resident sport fishing license fees, there is a $5 savings for the second year and a $10 savings for the third year but hunting goes from $5 to $15. He asked why there is a disproportionate jump in hunting licenses. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied $5 is still saved per year. He said, referring to section two, lines 13 and 14, a two year license would be $50 and HB 343 makes it $45. Number 475 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated that was not the issue. He said there is a $5 savings per charge or a combined charge savings of $10, but it is the following year he was referring to where fishing goes down five more dollars and hunting goes down $10. He noted that if a person was to buy individual licenses, there would be a $10 break on a three year fishing license but a $15 break on a three year hunting license. Representative Green felt to make it consistent the hunting license the third year should be $65 instead of $60. Number 515 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said he has been buying hunting and fishing licenses for over thirty years and he has never lost his license, thrown it in the river, or had it fall apart. He suggested people put their licenses in zip lock bags. He noted that the bill is attempting to save money, yet is proposing two new free licenses. Representative Bunde suggested on page two, line 20, delete those free licenses and not add any new free licenses. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN said what Representative Bunde was referring to is current law and those people go through an extra step to prove their income level to qualify. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES expressed her support of multiple year licenses as they do reduce administrative expenses. She said she is not sure it is necessary to give people an incentive to get multi-year licenses but suspected if there is not an incentive, people probably will not do so. She did not think the state's license fees are excessive and she would not have any problem raising the fees. She said there is a need for a more durable license such as a laminated license. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES commented that the so-called free licenses are not new, they are in existing statutes. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON noted that two years ago, the state went through a massive fee increase in licenses. Many of the current fees were adopted because Alaska is in direct competition with Canada. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER clarified that Representative Martin would be willing to go with rates of annual-$15; biennial- $30; and triennial-$45. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied that was fine. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN felt laminating licenses would be a good idea. REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY expressed concern that what is being discussed is getting complicated and felt if the same fee is going to be charged every year, people will not take advantage of it. He said the only incentive to get a three year license is money saved. CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS advised if licenses were to be laminated, each store would have to have a laminating machine and it would get very costly. Number 689 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES felt if the committee is going to make fees consistent, page 2, lines 6 and 16 should be modified. The triennial licenses should be amended from $95 to $100. TAPE 94-10, SIDE B GERON BRUCE, DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME, stated there are other reasons why annual renewal of licenses is important. In order to get the federal money that both the Wildlife Conservation Division and the Sport Fish Division receive annually, ADF&G has to annually certify to the federal government, the sales of sport hunting and fishing licenses which Alaska issues. He said ADF&G could still certify the sales if the state went to a biennial or triennial system but it would be complicated. Instead of simplifying the process and reducing administrative work, it will make it more complicated. MR. BRUCE pointed out that in some fisheries and hunts where there is a seasonal bag limit, people are required to record harvests on the back of their licenses. This will require a larger stock of paper to enable a person to record two or three years of harvest. He reminded committee members that it is vendors who issue the licenses, not ADF&G. When a laminated license is considered, the vendors will be affected by the change. Number 040 MR. BRUCE stated that ADF&G does respect and concur with Representative Martin's intention to improve the convenience for the public. However, he felt there might be better ways in which that could be accomplished including the purchase of licenses through the mail. He noted there are a number of subtle complexities in HB 343 which need to be considered. The fiscal impact on ADF&G will be significant. He said ADF&G is trying to get as many dollars as possible out in the field to manage resources and provide the maximum opportunities to harvest them. Number 067 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked if ADF&G will lose federal revenue because of the three year cycle or because of the actual fee levels. MR. BRUCE replied he did not say they would lose funding, but rather to receive funding, ADF&G is required to submit certain reports certifying the sale of licenses and what is done with the money received from the licenses. It is a very complicated process and the administrative difficulty will be increased by having a biennial and triennial license system rather than an annual process. Number 083 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said he can understand there will be a disruption in the transition period, where in one year there will be an increase in revenues and a corresponding decline in the subsequent two or three years, but felt it will average out in the long run to be the same amount of annual revenue to be reported. He asked if most licenses require a report on the back of the license. MR. BRUCE responded the reporting on the reverse of the license verifies a person is in compliance with seasonal limits. It is not something used in ADF&G's harvest monitoring, but rather is an enforcement tool in places where there is a seasonal bag limit. Number 105 REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY inquired the amount of federal money received by the state. MR. BRUCE explained the amount is determined from a formula based on the number of licenses sold and the acreage of the state. He did not know the exact amount but estimated ADF&G receives several million dollars annually from the federal government for sport fish and wildlife conservation programs. Number 120 REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY felt if the state went to a multiple year licensing process, ADF&G will probably have more licenses issued. He asked if the only reason harvests are recorded, is so an enforcement officer can stop someone in the field and check to see if that person has recorded the correct amounts. He wondered how often enforcement officers arrest people because they have not put the right amount on the back of their license. MR. BRUCE answered it does work on the honor system. He said there is a risk in that if someone catches something and does not record it and is questioned by an officer, that person is clearly in violation and can be arrested. Number 146 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES felt there will be no differences in reporting to the federal government. She agreed there may be people who buy multi-year licenses and then leave the state, resulting in credit for them buying a license the following year when they are not really here, possibly giving the state more money from the federal government. She felt the problems discussed in regard to paper quality and the requirement for recording harvests could be designed into a new form. She stated she has seen lots of licenses on different kinds of material which are more durable than what is used currently. Representative James asked if there will be administrative relief if the state goes to a multiple year licensing process. Number 175 MR. BRUCE replied the primary administrative savings incurred will involve ADF&G not having to pay vendors for selling licenses on an annual basis, but rather paying just one fee. There will also be less data entry costs, although those costs are minimal. He said instead of having one resident license, the form will need to accommodate three different kinds of licenses or will need to have separate stock. A mechanism will also be needed to ensure vendors report and get an accurate account of when they sell a one year license compared to a two year or three year license. If all that is done on one form, accurate accounting becomes particularly important. ADF&G likes having a multiple stock as it makes accounting easier. Mr. Bruce summarized that ADF&G does not see significant administrative savings and said the main issue is increased convenience for the public. He also pointed out that the fiscal note does include an estimate for having a different kind of stock paper which would result in additional costs. Number 228 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said laminated licenses had been discussed and asked if those types of licenses are used, how will the required stamps be affixed to the back of licenses. MR. BRUCE replied those are the kinds of problems associated with a laminated license. A different stock paper might be a more workable solution. He pointed out even though licenses might be issued on a two or three year basis, there is still a need to get the stamps and tags required each year and questioned whether multi-year licenses are a real convenience or a perceived convenience. He felt there may be other ways to accomplish the convenience goal, such as licensing through the mail. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated in sections eight and nine, there is one category of free licenses and another category of reduced fees licenses and wondered what the fiscal impact will be. KEVIN BROOKS, DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME, replied there are statistics available on the number of licenses currently issued in those classes but he did not have them with him. He said he will be happy to make them available to the committee. Number 278 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked what ADF&G's position would be if the rates were changed to reflect a two year and three year rate and there would be no fiscal impact. MR. BRUCE responded ADF&G's single largest concern is the fiscal impact. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER questioned what the vendors are paid to issue licenses. MR. BRUCE answered vendors get ten percent, plus an additional dollar of compensation for each tag sold. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if overall costs could be reduced if there is a standard fee for vendors. He also commented he did not see how there could be an increase in violations with HB 343. MR. BRUCE felt it is a valid position. There have been problems confirming residency and having individuals apply for resident licenses when they do not qualify. He said there is a significant dollar difference between resident and nonresident big game hunting licenses. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked what is required to apply for federal funds. Number 335 MR. BRUCE responded he does not perform the certification process himself but he will be happy to get one of the staff members familiar with the process and provide a written briefing or testify before the committee. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked if ADF&G has the power to require a certain number of years residency or people to be property owners to qualify for multi-year licenses. He questioned what the current residency requirement is for a resident license. Number 360 MR. BRUCE stated the current residency requirement for licenses is one year. He asked committee members to remember that licenses are issued by vendors and no proof of residency is required. If a proof of residency is to be required, vendors will have to enforce the requirement which could be inconvenient and complicated. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN clarified ADF&G does not have the power under current regulation to require higher levels of proof such as being a property owner or a 15 year resident. MR. BRUCE replied ADF&G does not have that power. Number 395 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON referred to AS 16.05.940 which is the definition of residency and stated it goes well beyond just 12 consecutive months voting residence in the state. REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY wondered if the state receives federal funds on the free senior licenses which are currently issued in the state. MR. BRUCE said he could not answer the question. REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY asked if there is a relationship between what the state charges for licenses and the amount of federal money received. MR. BRUCE replied the federal formula is not based on the cost of the licenses the state sells, rather it is based on the number of licenses and the physical geographical size of the state. REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY remarked if the state is not collecting federal money for senior licenses because the state is not charging for them, he felt the state should charge a minimal amount so that federal money can be collected. Number 430 BILL VALENTINE, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PROTECTION, stated the division's position on HB 343 is neutral. He said their concerns relate to residency and the ability to detect violations. He pointed out the division's real concern relating to residency is in the big game arena, not in the sport fishery. Once a person becomes a resident as described in the statute quoted by Representative Hudson, he can leave the state with two years of free big game hunting privileges. Tags in the big game arena for nonresidents are very expensive and some require the hiring of a guide. He stressed the division's ability to detect violations will not be good and are not good currently. He described current techniques used. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES observed that when buying licenses in other states, there is a requirement for proof of residence. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked what the most valuable benefit a person can get by leaving the state and trying to retain resident status. Number 535 MR. VALENTINE replied there are three species a nonresident needs a guide for: sheep, brown bear, musk oxen and in some areas, goat. A resident does not need a guide for any species and does not have to pay a tag fee which can be quite expensive. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON suggested that resident licenses be issued through the permanent fund application which could save much cost and effort. MR. VALENTINE agreed, but added that the residency requirements for the permanent fund are much more stringent under the permanent fund regulations than they are for hunting and fishing. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON felt there would be an even stronger indicia of residency. MR. VALENTINE stated one of the division's proposed amendments to HB 343 was that licenses be tied to the permanent fund application. Number 576 CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS remarked there are many unanswered questions on HB 343 and suggested a subcommittee be established to work on the questions. VICE CHAIRMAN HUDSON, REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY and REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES volunteered to work on the bill. ANNOUNCEMENTS CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS announced the committee will meet Wednesday, February 9 at 8:15 a.m. to take up HB 33 relating to mining locations on state selected land, and HJR 50 relating to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council Comprehensive Rationalization Plan. ADJOURNMENT There being no further business to come before the House Resources Committee, Chairman Williams adjourned the meeting at 9:40 a.m.