Legislature(1997 - 1998)

02/20/1997 08:21 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 13 - MARINE SAFETY TRAINING & EDUCATION                                  
 The next order of business to come before the House State Affairs             
 Standing Committee was HB 13, "An Act relating to marine safety               
 training and education programs."                                             
 TAPE 97-17, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 001                                                                    
 CHAIR JAMES announced for the record that Representative Kim Elton            
 was attending a sub-committee meeting today.                                  
 CHAIR JAMES called on Representative Alan Austerman, sponsor of HB
 13, to present the bill.                                                      
 Number 010                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE ALAN AUSTERMAN, Alaska State Legislature, explained            
 HB 13 was a remake of a bill that he introduced two years ago.  It            
 was passed out of the House of Representatives, then died in the              
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN stated in 1988 the United States Coast               
 Guard took a strong look at what was going on as far as safety was            
 concerned in the marine industry.  Consequently, the Commercial               
 Fishing Vessel Safety Act of 1988 was passed.  The Act took effect            
 in 1991 and required the minimum in safety training and equipment             
 for commercial fishing vessels.  The Alaska Marine Safety Education           
 Association (AMSEA) also helped Alaskans by providing marine safety           
 instructor training some of whom teach drill instructor courses.              
 Other marine safety instructors train the Alaska boating and                  
 fishing public, including many children and adults in marine                  
 safety.  Of the 7,300 people AMSEA trained in 1995, 2,000 were from           
 the commercial fishing industry and 3,700 were children.  According           
 to a study conducted in 1995 by the Native Health Service, AMSEA              
 training significantly reduced fatalities among commercial                    
 fisherman.  This coincided with a 50 percent drop in fishing                  
 fatalities in Alaska in the last four years.  Moreover, AMSEA was             
 a nonprofit, community-based information and training network                 
 supported by many volunteers.  Its annual budget had ranged from              
 $100,000 to $250,000 in the past five years.  It had received 100             
 percent of its funding from the federal government, of which, the             
 funding fell to $50,000 last year.  And, this year it would fall to           
 $0.  The number of people training also fell to an all time low.              
 The organization deserved the intervention of the legislature to              
 ensure long-term stability.  Moreover, the Fishermen's Fund was               
 created before statehood and 100 percent of it was funded by                  
 commercial fishing license fees.  Sixty percent of all license fees           
 were dedicated to the fund.  Since commercial fishermen were often            
 the beneficiaries of the required marine safety training, it was              
 appropriate to allow part of the interest of the fund to be used to           
 fund some of AMSEA's marine safety programs.  It was estimated that           
 the Fishermen's Fund generated approximately $300,000 in interest             
 a year.  The bill requested up to approximately one-half of the               
 interest earnings a year.  The current interest earnings, he                  
 explained, of the Fishermen's Fund went into the general fund.                
 Number 099                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN also stated that he had lived on or around           
 water most of his life.  Therefore, "The need to have education and           
 training, particularly starting with our children, is to me very,             
 very important."  His office would be willing to provide a package            
 of information from last year that included testimony from all over           
 Alaska illustrating the need and benefits of AMSEA.  He cited the             
 decline in the death rate in the Interior of Alaska on the rivers             
 was directly related to the Act.  He reiterated the all time death            
 rates had also decreased over the last four years.  National                  
 publications also illustrated the direct benefit of survival as a             
 result of the training received from the program.  The state of               
 Alaska did not have a water boat safety program.  The AMSEA program           
 was the nearest the state had, and probably the nearest it would              
 get to one with the funding reductions.  He concluded that the bill           
 was passed out of the House of Representatives last year with a               
 vote of 34 to 4.                                                              
 Number 145                                                                    
 CHAIR JAMES asked Representative Austerman what types of problems             
 did he see if the bill did not pass in regards to the issue of                
 dedicating funds?  Was the legislature authorized without the bill            
 to give 50 percent of the interest income to a safety training                
 program or an amount from the general fund that was comparable?               
 Number 158                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN replied that the Fishermen's Fund was a              
 pre-statehood dedicated fund.  The interest earnings that went into           
 the general fund were not part of the dedication.  If the stream of           
 interest earnings were interrupted, it would not touch to                     
 dedication itself.  If the bill proposed money from the fund                  
 itself, however, then the dedication would be destroyed.                      
 Number 170                                                                    
 CHAIR JAMES said Representative Austerman misunderstood her                   
 question.  The effect of HB 13 was to draw attention to the                   
 legislature and the relationship between the interest of the fund             
 and the need for training.                                                    
 CHAIR JAMES further stated that the bill did not compel the                   
 legislature to do this, the wording only said "may."  But, if the             
 bill did not pass the legislature would probably never fund it.               
 Therefore, the effect of this piece of legislation was not binding,           
 it was only suggestive.                                                       
 Number 183                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN replied, "That is correct."  A source of             
 funding had been identified that was generated by the fishermen               
 Number 190                                                                    
 CHAIR JAMES thanked Representative Austerman.  She agreed that was            
 the message that the legislature wanted to send.  It could be                 
 argued that this was not necessary; the legislature could already             
 do this.  The act was the message.                                            
 Number 194                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE FRED DYSON stated he had been trained under the                
 program himself.  He was certified to conduct vessel safety                   
 equipment inspections and man-over-board drills.  He believed he              
 could also charge a fee for his services and profit from the                  
 results of the program.  He never had, however.                               
 CHAIR JAMES stated that the committee members appreciated his                 
 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON stated that much of this legislation came from           
 the loss of a seiner in Marmot Bay, and the efforts of the                    
 influential parents of one of the victims.  He agreed with                    
 Representative Austerman that the rate of survival had decreased              
 precipitously in Alaskan waters.  This Act and the training had a             
 profound affect on marine disasters in Alaska.  "I will certainly             
 encourage us to pass this bill and commend the author for his                 
 relentless pursuit of keeping this training available."                       
 Number 231                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS asked Representative Austerman if the bill             
 placed an economic burden on Alaskans living remotely?  How was the           
 training conducted and certified?                                             
 Number 235                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN replied the majority of the people                   
 involved were volunteers.  A little bit of money was used for                 
 travel and equipment.  The program reached out to 7,300 people with           
 only a budget of $150,000.                                                    
 Number 250                                                                    
 RON DEARBORN, Director, Alaska Sea Grant College Program,                     
 University of Alaska Fairbanks, was the first person to testify via           
 teleconference in Fairbanks.  He worked with faculty throughout the           
 university of Alaska system on research, education and marine                 
 extension efforts.  The program was one of the original partners of           
 the AMSEA.  The relationship continued, proudly.  The AMSEA had               
 received national awards.  The one critical partner missing was the           
 Alaska State Legislature.  He urged the committee members to                  
 support HB 13.                                                                
 Number 281                                                                    
 JERRY DZUGAN was the next person to testify via teleconference in             
 Sitka.  He cited that drowning was the number 2 cause of accidental           
 death in Alaska.  And, Alaska had the highest drowning rate in the            
 nation.  The rates were starting to fall, however.  He asked the              
 committee members to expedite the passage of the bill so that                 
 Alaskans of all ages could continue to take advantage of this                 
 program and reduce the needless loss of life due to drowning.                 
 Number 298                                                                    
 LARRY BUSSONE, Health Program Manager II, Division of Public                  
 Health, Department of Social Services, was the first person to                
 testify in Juneau.  He announced the department's support of the              
 Number 313                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS moved that HB 13 move from the committee               
 with the attached fiscal note(s) and individual recommendations.              
 There was no objection,  HB 13 was so moved from the House State              
 Affairs Standing Committee.                                                   

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