Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/26/1997 01:35 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Number 001 CSHB 13(FIN) am MARINE SAFETY TRAINING & EDUCATION CHAIRMAN MACKIE called the Senate Community & Regional Affairs Committee meeting to order at 1:35 p.m., and noted the presence of Senators Wilken, Donley, Hoffman and Mackie. He then brought CSHB 13(FIN) am before the committee as the only order of business. REPRESENTATIVE ALAN AUSTERMAN , prime sponsor of HB 13, explained the bill is basically the same bill he introduced last year, which passed the House but failed to make it through the Senate during the final days of the session. Representative Austerman said because the state of Alaska does not have a water safety program for saving lives, the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) was formed after a federal law was passed requiring the state to have something in place for safety training and equipment for commercial fishing vessels. Federal funding for that program is running out, and because the state does not have a safety water program, it it felt that this program should continue on. The legislation accomplishes this by providing that 50 percent of the proceeds from the Fishermen's Fund interest earnings may be used to fund marine safety training and education programs. Representative Austerman noted the original bill specifically designated AMSEA as the recipient of the funds, but that has been removed so that if somebody else comes along with a better program, it still can be funded. Number 045 SENATOR HOFFMAN agreed the bill allows that to happen, but he questioned if the Legislature would still have to appropriate the dollars. REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN advised that the House budget contains $150,000 in program receipts and designated grants in the Department of Community & Regional Affairs' budget. Number 055 SENATOR WILKEN noted backup material makes reference to the Disabled Fisherman's Fund, which was put into place several years ago to help with the costs of occupational injuries and illnesses for licensed commercial fishermen, and he asked if that is what the proceeds go to now. REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN clarified that was a dedicated fund that was created before statehood, however, this legislation is not asking that any part of the dedicated fund be touched. He said 60 percent of a crewman's license fee goes into this fund every year and the interest earnings off of the fund go into the general fund. The legislation provides that up to half of the interest earnings be used to fund marine safety training and education programs. Number 085 CHAIRMAN MACKIE asked how the education programs will be applied. REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN explained it is a statewide program that is done through the schools and the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association conducts classes that are available for the general public as well. He pointed out that in 1995, 7,300 people took part in this training, and out of that number, 3,700 were children that were actually trained. Number 116 MARK JOHNSON , Chief, Community Health & Emergency Medical Services, Department of Health & Social Services, voiced the department's support for CSHB 13(FIN) am. He related that they were involved in the formation of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association as a part of a broad coalition back in the mid-eighties. The department believes that this is an important issue because some years there are more drowning fatalities in the state than there are fatalities from accidents on the highways. Mr. Johnson said his division has assisted in trying to find federal grants to help AMSEA over the years, but they are getting to the end of any pots of money to be found, and this would be an opportunity to find some stable funding for the program for the future. Mr. Johnson pointed out AMSEA has trained over 350 instructors throughout the state. He also pointed out that a study done by Ron Perkins at the Alaska Native Health Service, which focused on the commercial fishing community, revealed that statistically, this program is working and is saving lives. Number 142 SENATOR HOFFMAN asked where Alaska stands in drownings per capita. MR. JOHNSON responded Alaska ranks highest in the nation and it is something like 10 times the national average right now. Number 152 PAUL GROSSI , Director, Workers' Compensation, Department of Labor, and Chair of the Fishermen's Fund Advisory Council, stated the department supports CSHB 13(FIN) am. Responding to a question from Senator Wilken concerning workers' compensation for fishermen, Mr. Grossi explained the fishermen are exempt from workers' compensation. The fishermen's fund pays for medical costs up to $2,500, but they can ask for an extension of that benefit to pay above $2,500. It is a program that is just for the payment of medical costs that aren't covered by any other insurance. Number 200 There being no further testimony on HB 13, CHAIRMAN MACKIE asked for the pleasure of the committee. SENATOR DONLEY moved CSHB 13(FIN) am and the accompanying fiscal notes be passed out of committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.