Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/16/1995 01:40 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SL&C 3/16/95 SB 108 ALASKA TOURISM MARKETING COUNCIL CHAIRMAN KELLY called the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee meeting to order at 1:40 p.m. and announced SB 108 to be up for consideration. MARY JACKSON Legislative Aide for Senator Torgerson, said SB 108 extends the Tourism Marketing Council from December of 1996 to December of 1999 and changes some of the contract terms with the Trade Association to coincide with the revised sunset provision. There is some housekeeping about the authority to sign a contract and it directs the Commissioner to contract with a qualified in- state trade association. It deletes language regarding out of state travel expenses for association members. JOHN LITTON, Vice President, Government Affairs, Alaska Visitors Association, said he also sits on the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council and has participated with the Council for the past six years. MR. LITTON said most of the changes in the language has to do with making the Commissioner more directly responsible for the contracting authority. He said he was concerned with the per diem and reimbursement provision. For example, he traveled on behalf of the Council back to New York meeting with travel editors, which is something they annually do, to try to get stories about Alaska placed in different magazines and newspapers nation-wide. This is the trip on which he met the president of ABC Network and talked about bringing Good Morning America to Alaska. Shortly, thereafter, there was an audit of their department and it was brought to their attention that reimbursement for his travel to New York was not appropriate. Travel is specifically supposed to be for in-state council meetings. SENATOR KELLY asked how many board members there were. MR. LITTON replied there was a total of 21 - ten appointed by the Governor, the Director of the Division of Tourism, and 10 that are appointed by the industry. SENATOR KELLY said he has a problem with the paragraph on reimbursing 21 members to travel all over the world by just getting the approval of this trade association. BOB DINDINGER, Vice Chairman, Alaska Tourism Marketing Council (ATMC), said originally that provision was in the statute so that the Marketing Council would not have its regular meetings outside the State of Alaska. SB 108 proposes, not to reimburse members for attending the meetings outside the state, but to reimburse a member who is sent by the council to sell Alaska. They have no intention of holding meetings outside of Alaska. He also explained that only the council members appointed by the Governor are reimbursed for attending meetings. The 10 industry members are never reimbursed at state expense. JEFF BUSH, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Commerce and Economic Development, pointed out that lines 7-9 on page 2 state that if board members appointed by the trade associations receive per diem and travel, the trade association has to reimburse the council for it. MR. DINDINGER said reauthorization of the ATMC was appropriate in the Labor and Commerce Committee, because it's an issue about jobs - about 27,000 primary Alaskan jobs and over 50,000 total Alaskan jobs. He said this is the only state sponsored program that addresses the 92% of Alaska visitors that come from the continental United States and Canada. It addresses visitor demand by all modes of transportation and the needs of both independent travelers and package tour travelers. In other words, it is a very generic program. The primary vehicle of this program is print advertising which consists of approximately 650,000 names to which the Vacation Planner is sent. The Vacation Planner lists over 1,000 Alaskan businesses and the nature of their services. He concluded saying that they highly recommend reauthorization of the Marketing Council. The money is well spent and it is well managed. Number 154 SENATOR KELLY asked if the Marketing Council was funded as a line item in the Department of Commerce budget. MR. DINDINGER replied that was correct and last year it was about $3,800,000 from the general fund with a 25% match from the industry. SENATOR KELLY asked what trade association they currently had a trade agreement with. MR. DINDINGER said that the Alaska Visitors Association was the only one that has ever had a joint management agreement with the state. They are limited to three state employees. SENATOR KELLY said he was the one to put that limit in. SENATOR KELLY asked if the Marketing Council had the budget in their control. MR. DINDINGER answered that it was and that it was managed under the state procurement system. Number 210 SENATOR MILLER noted that over the years he has been a critic of the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council, because they had a tendency to promote just one mode of transportation. However, he is a co- sponsor of this legislation, because they have done a tremendous job of including all other modes of transportation. NANCY LETHCOE, President, Alaska Wilderness, Recreation, and Tourism Association, pointed out that they support reauthorization of ATMC. They are concerned with the definition of a qualified trade organization, because although the current definition allows without limitation the composition of the ATMC, only those listed specifically are appointed. Those that are covered by the generic words "without limitation" do not have representation. She hoped for an amendment with a new definition to fine tune this program to make it better for small Alaskan owned and operated businesses. She also would like to see changes to section c, which is in the House version of this bill, that would give the Governor the opportunity to appoint more members to ATMC and reduce the number that are from the one trade organization. She wanted expertise brought to the table from people who are specialists in hunting, sportfishing, wilderness guides and outfitters. FRED DURE, Adventure Tours, supported reauthorization of ATMC. He supported Ms. Lethcoe's comments about the definition of a qualified trade association. As Alaskan tourism grows, it will be to all of Alaska's benefit to insure that all types of visitors are addressed in the marketing of their destination. Number 332 TINA LINDGREN, Director, Alaska Visitors Association, supported SB 108. She can't see any problem with adding to the definition, but there would still be many segments that would be left out like, gift shops, camp grounds, food and beverage companies, and sight seeing tours. She pointed out that it is currently part of the law that the Governor shall ensure that appointees are broadly representative of the different regions of the state and the various sectors. SENATOR KELLY asked if she currently authorizes travel for AVA board members outside the conventions and such. MS. LINDGREN replied that AVA doesn't reimburse their board members for travel. The appointees that AVA has on the ATMC pay their own way to all of the meetings. MR. BUSH supported SB 108. He said it's been a successful partnership and has done a very good job on tourism marketing. He requested changing "shall" on page 1, line 11, to "may" saying that everyone supported the change. He explained that the legislature, in passing this legislation, is essentially deciding it is in the best interest of the state to have a cooperative marketing program and they agree. However, in taking out the best interests language, there would essentially be no discretion for the department with respect to entering into this contractual arrangement. That language provides the opportunity to negotiate if there is something inappropriate in a contract. Number 400 SENATOR SALO moved to amend SB 108 on page 1, line 11 to change "shall" to "may." There were no objections and it was so ordered. SENATOR KELLY said he still has a problem with allowing board members to travel around the world when their primary business is tourism. He thought they should pay for their own travel. SENATOR KELLY asked Mr. Dindinger if he reimbursed Marketing Council members for their travel to meetings. MR. DINDINGER said the paid staff of ATMC (who are state employees) are reimbursed for their travel to the meetings, as are the Governor's appointees. He said all of the board members are reimbursed for their costs to attend the meetings, but the AVA has to reimburse the state for its appointees. SENATOR SALO asked what was their budget for out of state travel. MR. DINDINGER said he would have to get that information. SENATOR KELLY asked if the Governor's appointee members had been reimbursed for traveling outside the State of Alaska on these types of jobs. MR. DINDINGER answered not to his knowledge. He said when someone is traveling on behalf of the Marketing Council, they don't get to represent their own business. They can only represent the collective interest of the travel community within Alaska. He said they do send people out on those kinds of assignments. The problem is that it is enough of a burden on the private sector people to attend the meetings at their own expense, but when they are asked to dedicate a week to 10 days of their time to travel around the country on the state's behalf and to pay for the travel expense, that's a bit much. He said they are often not able to get the people they would like to do that. SENATOR KELLY said wasn't that what they had full time employees for. MR. DINDINGER said some board members had greater depth of experience and better contacts than the employees did. Number 457 TINA LINDGREN explained what brought this situation about, in particular, was Good Morning America. It's very rare that a council member is asked to do work on behalf of the state. The way legislation is currently written they can send any person in the state except for members of the council, and reimburse their travel. She said their auditors suggested they change the statue, because right now, as it stands, they are inhibiting the council's ability to do the work they have been assigned to do. SENATOR SALO asked for a ballpark figure how much the change in the statute would cost. MS. LINDGREN replied that it shouldn't change the budget at all. Currently, there's $55,000 set aside for travel that probably won't be entirely used. She guessed they were talking about a $10,000 for council member travel for one or two trips to New York or the West Coast during a year. Number 483 MR. LITTON clarified that a board member does not have the ability to just decide they want to go and participate in something and come back. Any travel that is done by a board member has to be approved by the department prior to the travel, like in any other department. SENATOR KELLY said he wanted to have more comfort that there wouldn't be increased travel activity in the future because of the change in this law. SENATOR KELLY said they would hold the bill for amendments on Tuesday.