Legislature(1997 - 1998)

03/26/1997 01:35 PM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 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.                                      

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