Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/01/1996 03:38 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 311 MARINE SAFETY EDUCATION PROGRAMS CHAIRMAN LEMAN introduced SB 311 as the next order of business. SENATOR JOHN TORGERSON , prime sponsor of SB 311, said he introduced the legislation at the request of commercial fishermen in his district. Basically, the funding for the program has come from the federal government, but with recent budget cuts, it is facing elimination under the current funding level. He noted the same legislation was introduced in the House. Senator Torgerson explained SB 311 allows for the appropriation of 50 percent of the income earned by the state on the balance of the fishermen's fund for grants to the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) for this training program. Senator Torgerson said he recognizes that the entire budget of the training program is somewhat less than 50 percent of what the fund earns, so the 50 percent would overfund them approximately $45,000, and he suggested the committee may want to amend the language to allow appropriating up to 50 percent. Senator Togerson stated he supports the fund and would like to see it continue, and this funding source is one way to ensure that it happens. CHAIRMAN LEMAN agreed that changing the language to up to 50 percent was appropriate in order to protect the integrity of the fishermen's fund. SENATOR TAYLOR moved the following amendment to SB 311: Amendment No. 1. Page l, line 8: After the word "appropriate" insert "up to" Hearing no objection, the Chairman stated the amendment was adopted and would be incorporated into a Resources CS. CHAIRMAN LEMAN opened the public hearing on SB 311. Number 440 BARBARA BURCH , representing the Kodiak Fishermen's Wives and testifying in Kodiak, voiced strong support for SB 311 and the AMSEA program. PAT HOLMES , testifying in Kodiak, stated investing 50 percent of the interest from this fund is a really good investment. He is a biologist for the Department of Fish & Game, and in addition to his fishery management duties, he is also regional safety officer and chair of the department's safety training committee. He said they extensively use the AMSEA materials in their training program, not only for the crews of the vessels that conduct research and enforcement, but also for their seasonal employees who man the field camps. The department's training program is also offered to personnel from the Department of Environmental Conservation and personnel from the Division of Parks. A spin-off program called "Cold Water Kids" is used extensively in many schools in Southeast Alaska and the Gulf of Alaska. He urged the committee's support for SB 311, because without state funding, the program will cease to exist. JAMES HERBERT , testifying in Seward, said he is one of Senator Torgerson's constituents who encouraged him to introduce SB 311 because he supports training for commercial fishermen and mariners in the state. He has been a fisherman in Alaska for over 25 years, and he believes that in recent years, attitude wise, things have changed and a lot of that has to do with the work of the network of volunteers that AMSEA has created throughout the state. He believes the legislation targets a viable source of money, something that reasonably could be used to help prevent further injuries through educating people. JERRY DZUGAN , the director and training coordinator for AMSEA testifying in Sitka, said AMSEA is an Alaska based nonprofit corporation, and they have been training mariners and marine safety instructors from all over Alaska for the last 10 years. He noted Alaska's recreational and commercial boaters suffer the highest fatality rate in the nation. However, partly as a result of AMSEA's efforts and the efforts of all of the volunteers who help AMSEA, the recreational and commercial fishing fatality rate has dropped about 50 percent in the last several years. He also pointed out AMSEA's unique Alaska specific program has been emulated on all other three coasts of the nation and Alaska is now recognized by many in the nation as a place to go for quality hands-on training. He stressed that AMSEA has no secured funding in sight for the next fiscal year. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asked if private parties contribute to this nonprofit organization and if they are actively soliciting contributions from private parties. MR. DZUGAN replied that AMSEA has about 100 members around the state, and they do contribute to AMSEA's effort. Number 560 MARK JOHNSON , Chief, Community Health & Emergency Medical Services, Department of Health & Social Services, stated drowning is a major problem in the state, and there is no other comprehensive program like AMSEA that is offered in the state to address this issue. He said drowning is not only a problem among the commercial fishing community, it is a statewide problem that affects most regions and most age groups. The department feels AMSEA has been successful, and they believe supporting AMSEA is in the best interest. MARIAH OFFER , an AMSEA instructor testifying in Kodiak, speaking to the importance of the prevention of marine accidents, said AMSEA has been a great support in keeping her up with requirements and changes in regulations and information. TAPE 96-43, SIDE B Number 010 JANE EIZMAN , a 19-year commercial fisherman testifying in Kodiak, spoke to the improvement in safety measures being taken by fishermen in the last 19 years, and she attributed the understanding of safety regulations and the proper use of safety equipment to AMSEA's efforts. She noted she is an AMSEA instructor, as well as teacher of fisheries science at Kodiak High School, and AMSEA is an integral part of her marine and wilderness safety survival training program that she offers at the high school. She added that as a contributor to the Fishermen's Fund for the last 19 years and different licenses that she has purchased, she feels it is an appropriate use of funds. HANK PENNINGTON , testifying in Kodiak, said he has worked on extending marine safety and survival training to fishermen in coastal communities and public schools in Alaska for the last 21 years. He said the genesis of AMSEA was the fact that no single agency had either the expertise or the resources or the geographic coverage to get this training out where it was needed. He voiced his concern that if the legislation does not pass, AMSEA will wither. He said what is needed is a stable base of funding for AMSEA. DEAN PADDOCK , testifying in Juneau on behalf of the Bristol Bay Driftnetters' Association, said public safety is one of the truly legitimate functions of government. The present day demand for AMSEA came as a federal mandate, and it was a temporarily funded mandate. He pointed out that it is already a user funded activity; the fishermen have already paid. He said AMSEA has done a great job at a very low cost benefit ratio, and he urged passage of the legislation. SENATOR LINCOLN offered as an amendment to page 1, line 8, after the word "income" insert "from interest." She said if at some time in the future there is any other type of income that is earned by the fishermen's fund, this would clarify that the "up to 50 percent of the income earned" relates to interest income. BETTY MARTIN , Comptroller, Treasury Division, Department of Revenue, explained that the fund could also earn realized and unrealized gains. Currently, it earns actual interest that is paid into it, and then there is realized and unrealized gains on the fixed income securities, and all of that, the net number, is paid into the general fund annually. SENATOR TORGERSON asked Ms. Martin if she thought Senator Lincoln's amendment was a good amendment for the purpose of the bill. MS. MARTIN said she thought it was, because it will make a more consistent cash flow to the fund. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asked if there was any objection to Senator Lincoln's amendment. Hearing no objection, he stated the amendment was adopted. He then asked for the pleasure of the committee. SENATOR PEARCE moved CSSB 311(RES) and the accompanying fiscal notes be passed out of committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.