Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/26/1996 03:35 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         SB 273 NATIVE HANDICRAFTS & INSTATE PRODUCTS                        
 Number 001                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN SHARP called the Senate State Affairs Committee to order             
 at 3:35 p.m. and brought up SB 273 as the first order of business             
 before the committee.  He called Senator Lincoln to testify.                  
 Number 030                                                                    
 SENATOR GEORGIANNA LINCOLN, prime sponsor of SB 273, informed the             
 committee that some of the native arts and crafts she brought to              
 the hearing are genuine, and some are not.  SB 273 would require              
 sellers of native handicrafts with a retail value of over $100.00             
 to display a poster at least 11 inches by 17 inches.  There has to            
 be a certificate of origin also.  She noted that not even all of              
 the senators on the committee were able to correctly identify which           
 handicrafts she brought to the hearing were genuine, and which were           
 not.  Senator Lincoln displayed handicrafts and explained which               
 ones were made in Alaska by Alaska Natives, and which were not.               
 She related some of the circumstances under which the non-genuine             
 articles were made.  One man sold the rights to his name to a                 
 company in Seattle that then has handicrafts manufactured in the              
 Philippines with that man's name on them.  Some of the other                  
 articles were made in the lower forty-eight and Bali.  Senator                
 Lincoln stated the problem of mis-representation of whether                   
 handicrafts are genuinely made in Alaska by Alaska Natives or not             
 is becoming more and more pronounced.                                         
 Number 160                                                                    
 SENATOR LINCOLN stated that presently, about 80% of the                       
 $78,000,000.00 that was spent in 1994 on gifts and souvenirs is               
 questionable as to whether those gifts and souvenirs were even made           
 in Alaska.  SB 273 would make those persons guilty of                         
 counterfeiting or misrepresentation of Alaska Native handicrafts              
 liable for up to a $1,000.00 fine and or up to 90 days in jail.               
 CHAIRMAN SHARP asked if there were any questions for Senator                  
 Lincoln at this time.                                                         
 Number 186                                                                    
 SENATOR LEMAN asked what percent native a person would have to be             
 to qualify for this program, and does the work have to be produced            
 in Alaska?                                                                    
 SENATOR LINCOLN responded a person has to be at least one-fourth or           
 more Alaska Native Ancestry.  That is defined within the bill.  The           
 work does have to be produced in Alaska.                                      
 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no further questions, stated the committee            
 would take testimony via teleconference.                                      
 Number 200                                                                    
 CLEMENT UNGOTT, testifying from Gambell, stated he is an eskimo who           
 was born and raised on St. Laurence Island, Gambell, Alaska.  Mr.             
 Ungott stated he supports SB 273, because handicrafts are the only            
 source of income for his people.  Inauthentic handicrafts have been           
 damaging to the native carvers, and Mr. Ungott has seen his own               
 work reproduced, but he doesn't know where it's occurring or who is           
 doing it.                                                                     
 Number 240                                                                    
 COMMISSIONER WILLIE HENSLEY, Department of Commerce & Economic                
 Development, testifying from Anchorage, stated the Silver Hand                
 Program has been part of state law since shortly after statehood.             
 Today there are about 530 Silver Hand artists enrolled in the                 
 program, and 25 Silver Hand agents.  SB 273 will help keep                    
 fraudulent production of Alaska Native arts and crafts out of the             
 market place.  He doesn't think it will solve the problem, but he             
 thinks it will be a big help.  It will promote the sale and value             
 of authentically produced Native arts and crafts.  It will also               
 help educate the public about the Silver Hand Program and the                 
 certificate of origin.  A large proportion of the items sold as               
 Native arts and crafts are considered to be fraudulent.  Arts and             
 crafts represent a major portion of income for natives.  The amount           
 of opportunity for rural villages will increase significantly if we           
 can reduce the fraudulent productions that are on the market.  We             
 have an obligation to protect this market if we are serious about             
 stimulating private sector economic growth and independence for               
 rural Alaska.  Commissioner Hensley thinks that dependance will               
 increase on this type of income.  SB 273 would implement                      
 recommendations made by the Native Arts & Crafts Task Force.  The             
 idea would be not to use general funds for this program, but to               
 utilize program receipts to fund it.  He urges support for SB 273.            
 Number 285                                                                    
 SENATOR LEMAN asked Commissioner Hensley where program receipts               
 would come from.                                                              
 COMMISSIONER HENSLEY responded they would use private sector                  
 contributions, federal grants, and private foundation funding for             
 the $18,000.00 fiscal note.                                                   
 SENATOR LEMAN wondered if it would make sense to try to sell the              
 posters for several dollars apiece.                                           
 COMMISSIONER HENSLEY responded it was their inclination to provide            
 them to vendors.                                                              
 Number 299                                                                    
 ANGIE LARSON, Member - Native Arts & Crafts Task Force, Alaska                
 Treasures, testifying from Anchorage, stated she's been a Native              
 arts and crafts wholesaler for 17 years.  Her concern is that the             
 fraud in the industry is drowning genuine Alaska Native arts and              
 crafts to extinction.  There are so many mass-produced Native style           
 products that the consumer cannot always tell the difference.  It             
 is hard to compete with mass-produced products sold for half the              
 price.  She asked committee members to support SB 273.  This is not           
 a Native problem, it is an Alaskan problem.                                   
 Number 317                                                                    
 TEDDY MAYAC, testifying from Anchorage, stated he is an eskimo                
 ivory carver and has been associated with the Native arts and                 
 crafts industry in Alaska for over 30 years.  He supports SB 273.             
 He wants to see the termination of unethical practices which have             
 been initiated by unscrupulous dealers.  These profiteers are using           
 Native Alaskan names, which are given names belonging only to each          
 craftsperson.  These individuals are also copying Native Alaskan              
 styles without permission from the artist whose work they copy, and           
 often times mass produce.  The counterfeit works most always under-           
 sell the authentic pieces, thereby undermining the whole                      
 infrastructure of the Native Alaskan arts and crafts industry.  Mr.           
 Mayac fully supports SB 273 because it strengthens the                        
 disadvantaged position of the rural Alaskan craftspeople who, more            
 than any other artists, deserve protection to obtain fair market              
 prices for their works.  In addition, the Native arts and crafts              
 industry is, for the most part, the only viable means of obtaining            
 income for a very high percentage of Native people in Alaska.  SB
 273 is long overdue; the State of Alaska is mandated to protect all         
 it's citizens.  It is a beginning step towards fair treatment of              
 the Native Alaskans who depend on this industry to make a living.             
 Number 345                                                                    
 It is noted that Chuck McGee, a representative of the Silver Hands            
 Program within the Department of Commerce & Economic Development is           
 available on-line to answer questions.                                        
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked Mr. McGee if he has a copy of the                
 MR. MCGEE responded he does.                                                  
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked him about the language on the last two           
 lines of page 2 "...all materials used to produce the handicraft              
 are legal for the buyer to possess in the United States."  Can Mr.            
 McGee expound on that?  Senator Phillips stated that several years            
 ago he was in the Canadian Arctic, and was given a walrus tie pin,            
 which he was not allowed to take out of Canada.  He wondered if the           
 language on page 2 would affect foreign persons buying Alaskan                
 Native products.  What about possession other than in the United              
 MR. MCGEE thinks that would apply if the item was not legal to hold           
 in possession in the United States, then the buyer would not be               
 allowed to own that or take it out of the country.  The Department            
 of Commerce & Economic Development provides to stores a booklet               
 that identifies all of the materials, particularly mammal parts,              
 that are legal for taking across international boundaries, as well            
 as taking out of Alaska.  He stated that Ms. Larson has something             
 to add to that question.                                                      
 Number 380                                                                    
 MS. LARSON stated she can explain that language.  There are a lot             
 of questions and misunderstandings about walrus ivory and the                 
 purchase of it, even from U.S. citizens.  When tourists come to               
 Alaska, all they've heard about is elephant ivory.  They know it's            
 illegal and the generalize all forms of ivory.  So that was put in            
 the bill to clarify that it was ok for them to buy these materials.           
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS stated that if you get ivory in another                
 country and bring it back to this country, you run into some                  
 MS. LARSON replied that this only pertains to ivory purchased in              
 Alaska to clarify that it is ok.                                              
 SENATOR DONLEY asked what the rules are for purchase in Alaska.               
 MS. LARSON responded, Native made walrus ivory products can be sold           
 and purchased anywhere in the U.S.  If it's pre-1972 ivory, there             
 are non-Natives who can use it, but it must carry a certain                   
 warrantee with it.                                                            
 CHAIRMAN SHARP asked about seal skins or articles made from seal.             
 MS. LARSON replied that articles made out of seal are ok in the               
 U.S., and most countries will accept that also, but it must be                
 Native made in Alaska.                                                        
 CHAIRMAN SHARP stated he was in Canada and he bought what he                  
 thought was a seal product.  However, he was not allowed to bring             
 it back into the country in Fairbanks.                                        
 MS. LARSON responded there are a lot of politics between Canada and           
 the U.S. on these things.  You can't take it their way, and they              
 can't take it our way.  But that's another subject.                           
 CHAIRMAN SHARP asked if there were any other questions on SB 273 by           
 committee members.                                                            
 Number 410                                                                    
 SENATOR DONLEY made a motion to discharge SB 273 from the Senate              
 State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations.                      
 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, stated SB 273 was discharged            
 from the Senate State Affairs Committee.                                      
 SENATOR LINCOLN informed committee members that the fraudulent                
 items she brought to the hearing today are on loan from the                   
 Anchorage Museum, which is having an exhibit of counterfeit                   
 products.  These items were purchased by an undercover agent from             
 Anchorage stores that said the items were authentic Alaskan Native            
 made items.                                                                   

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