Legislature(2019 - 2020)GRUENBERG 120

03/07/2019 10:00 AM House FISHERIES

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10:00:44 AM Start
10:01:14 AM Confirmation Hearing(s): Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish and Game
10:40:11 AM HB35
11:08:38 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Consideration of Governor's Appointees: TELECONFERENCED
Commissioner Designee Doug Vincent-Lang, Dept.
of Fish & Game
-- Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES                                                                            
                         March 7, 2019                                                                                          
                           10:00 a.m.                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Louise Stutes, Chair                                                                                             
Representative Bryce Edgmon                                                                                                     
Representative Chuck Kopp                                                                                                       
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins                                                                                          
Representative Geran Tarr                                                                                                       
Representative Sarah Vance                                                                                                      
Representative Lance Pruitt                                                                                                     
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
CONFIRMATION HEARING(S):                                                                                                        
Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish and Game                                                                              
     Doug Vincent-Lang - Juneau                                                                                                 
     - CONFIRMATION(S) ADVANCED                                                                                                 
HOUSE BILL NO. 35                                                                                                               
"An Act relating to participation in matters before the Board of                                                                
Fisheries and the Board of Game by the members of the respective                                                                
boards; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                   
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB  35                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: BD FISHERIES/GAME                                                                            
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) STUTES                                                                                            
02/20/19       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/20/19       (H)       FSH, RES                                                                                               
03/07/19       (H)       FSH AT 10:00 AM GRUENBERG 120                                                                          
BILL: HB  35                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: BD FISHERIES/GAME                                                                            
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) STUTES                                                                                            
02/20/19       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/20/19       (H)       FSH, RES                                                                                               
03/07/19       (H)       FSH AT 10:00 AM GRUENBERG 120                                                                          
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
DOUG VINCENT-LANG, Commissioner-Designee                                                                                        
Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G)                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:   Testified as  commissioner-designee, Alaska                                                             
Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G).                                                                                              
MARK RICHARDS, Executive Director                                                                                               
Resident Hunters of Alaska                                                                                                      
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in  support of the confirmation of                                                             
Mr. Doug Vincent-Lang as commissioner of ADF&G.                                                                                 
MATT GRUENING, Staff                                                                                                            
Representative Louise Stutes                                                                                                    
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT:   During  the hearing  of  HB 35,  explained                                                             
changes under  the proposed committee  substitute, Version  M, on                                                               
behalf of Representative Stutes, prime sponsor.                                                                                 
BRADLEY MEYEN, Senior Assistant Attorney General                                                                                
Natural Resources Section                                                                                                       
Civil Division (Anchorage)                                                                                                      
Department of Law (DOL)                                                                                                         
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:   During the  hearing of  HB 35,  answered a                                                             
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
10:00:44 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  LOUISE  STUTES  called  the  House  Special  Committee  on                                                             
Fisheries meeting to order at  10:01 a.m.   Representatives Kopp,                                                               
Vance,  Pruitt, Tarr,  and Stutes  were  present at  the call  to                                                               
order.  Representatives Kreiss-Tomkins  and Edgmon arrived as the                                                               
meeting was in progress.                                                                                                        
^CONFIRMATION  HEARING(S):  COMMISSIONER,  ALASKA  DEPARTMENT  OF                                                               
FISH AND GAME                                                                                                                   
CONFIRMATION HEARING(S): COMMISSIONER, ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH                                                            
                            AND GAME                                                                                        
10:01:14 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
the confirmation hearing for  Mr. Doug Vincent-Lang, commissioner                                                               
designee, Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G).                                                                             
10:02:13 AM                                                                                                                   
DOUG  VINCENT-LANG, Commissioner-Designee,  testified he  grew up                                                               
in Wisconsin and  received his undergraduate degree  in 1978 from                                                               
the University of  Wisconsin at Green Bay  in population dynamics                                                               
and biology.   His  career began as  an oceanographer  in Florida                                                               
before  he  accepted  an  offer from  the  University  of  Alaska                                                               
Fairbanks   to  pursue   his   master's   degree  in   biological                                                               
oceanography.  He graduated in 1980  and in 1981 began his career                                                               
with ADF&G  where he  worked in various  positions for  34 years.                                                               
After  retired for  four  years he  accepted  the nomination  for                                                               
commissioner  of  ADF&G  when  Governor  Dunleavy  asked  him  to                                                               
consider taking the position.                                                                                                   
COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG  shared his  belief that  Alaska's fish                                                               
and game are a public trust  resource.  He expressed his need for                                                               
the public's trust if he is  going to be managing their resource.                                                               
Commissioner  Vincent-Lang stated,  "We're  not  always going  to                                                               
agree  on  the outcome,  but  we  are  going  to talk  about  the                                                               
issues.    People fundamentally care  about fish and  game, which                                                               
is good for  Alaska.  He said he will  seek input from department                                                               
staff  in the  decision-making process.    He said  his goals  as                                                               
commissioner are  to put food  on the tables of  Alaskans, ensure                                                               
trust, and preserve the state's right to manage its resources.                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG  admitted  he is  aware  of  criticism                                                               
regarding his  nomination due to  his stance on  "Proposition 1,                                                                
his   inexperience  managing   commercial   fisheries,  and   his                                                               
supportive  stance   on  active  management  of   fish  and  game                                                               
resources.   He said he is  excited to have this  opportunity and                                                               
believes he is up for the challenge.                                                                                            
10:09:55 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  STUTES  noted  there  is   a  perception  that  commercial                                                               
fisheries do not pay their  way.  She requested the commissioner-                                                               
designee  to  expound  about  the   return  on  the  dollar  that                                                               
commercial fisheries provide to the state of Alaska.                                                                            
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG explained  that  ADF&G  takes a  $197-                                                               
million  investment in  a  wide variety  of  funding sources,  of                                                               
which $65 million  is unrestricted general funds,  and turns that                                                               
into an  $11-billion industry.   He offered  his belief  that the                                                               
Office  of Management  and Budget  (OMB)  and the  Office of  the                                                               
Governor listened  and recognized the  return on investment.   He                                                               
pointed  out that  over  half  of the  $11  billion  is from  the                                                               
state's commercial fisheries.                                                                                                   
10:11:31 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  asked how the  commissioner-designee expects                                                               
to handle  the large-scale mine  issues facing the state  and the                                                               
Division  of Habitat    numerous  information  requests from  the                                                               
federal government.                                                                                                             
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG  replied he  is  unable  to share  his                                                               
personal views  regarding specific mine projects  because he does                                                               
have  the eventual  Title  16  authority.   But  he  can say  the                                                               
department  will use  the time  available to  it to  fully inform                                                               
those decisions.  For example,  ADF&G submitted over 400 comments                                                               
as  part  of  the  draft  environmental  impact  statement  (EIS)                                                               
process for the  proposed Pebble Mine.  While he  looked at those                                                               
comments, he didn't  edit the contents other than  a few language                                                               
changes to  make them  a bit  more neutral in  terms of  how they                                                               
were looked at.   Every comment that ADF&G submitted  was part of                                                               
the state's  comments.  He  related that  he has asked  his staff                                                               
whether ADF&G  is going to  have enough time to  fully understand                                                               
how  the department's  400 comments  are  incorporated into  that                                                               
draft EIS process and staff will be getting back to him shortly.                                                                
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG stated  that ADF&G  issued permits  on                                                               
the  Donlin  Gold  Mine Project  under  former  Commissioner  Sam                                                               
Cotten.  The former commissioner  reached out to the local people                                                               
about their concern regarding Donlin,  but there was no response.                                                               
He  advised  that the  department  will  attempt to  contact  the                                                               
concerned citizens  once again.   He stated  that there  are some                                                               
reasons to be  careful regarding building large  mines; but there                                                               
can  be  real  benefits  to  local communities.    Mines  can  be                                                               
responsibly built,  but with their  increased size there  will be                                                               
the need for greater scrutiny from the department.                                                                              
10:14:22 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  STUTES requested  the commissioner-designee's  thoughts on                                                               
the Division of  Habitat being moved out of the  department.  She                                                               
further asked  whether, regarding  the proposed Pebble  Mine, the                                                               
commissioner-designee  thinks 90  days is  enough time  to assess                                                               
and comment on a 400,000-page draft EIS.                                                                                        
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG  responded  he  is not  aware  of  any                                                               
decision to  move the Division of  Habitat out of ADF&G  but said                                                               
there is potential  for the director not to be  filled as a cost-                                                               
saving  measure.   All  that  that would  do  is  leave a  deputy                                                               
director  reporting to  an ADF&G  deputy  commissioner under  his                                                               
supervision.  So, the division  and Title 16 authority would stay                                                               
within  ADF&G.   Regarding  whether  90  days is  sufficient  for                                                               
reviewing the  draft EIS, he said  he doesn't know and  has asked                                                               
his staff to get back to him as to whether it is sufficient.                                                                    
10:15:29 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE TARR suggested  that if ADF&G does  not believe 90                                                               
days is enough time to  evaluate the draft EIS, the commissioner-                                                               
designee should  feel comfortable  sharing ADF&Gs   concerns with                                                               
the  legislature.    She  then  voiced  her  concerns  about  the                                                               
commissioner-designee's  membership on  a variety  of boards  and                                                               
the potential conflict  of interest or perception  of conflict of                                                               
interest that that could present.                                                                                               
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG  replied  he  has  resigned  from  all                                                               
public boards.                                                                                                                  
10:17:16 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES  asked the commissioner-designee to  commit that the                                                               
department  leadership  make  decisions  that  are  science-based                                                               
without regard to political pressure.                                                                                           
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG  responded that  he  has  had to  make                                                               
politically unpopular fisheries management  decisions in the past                                                               
but made them  because the science indicated they  were the right                                                               
decision.   He stated that  conservation and  sustainability were                                                               
the priority.                                                                                                                   
10:19:03 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS inquired  whether the commissioner-                                                               
designee knows what his role  will be with the governor regarding                                                               
appointments  to the  Board of  Fisheries and  the North  Pacific                                                               
Fishery Management Council.                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG answered  it  is more  of an  advisory                                                               
role.   He  explained  that the  board  appointment process  goes                                                               
through  Boards   and  Commissions  and  it   is  ultimately  the                                                               
governor's decision, but he would like to have input.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS inquired  about the  commissioner-                                                               
designee's  outlook  on   managing  Pittman-Robertson  funds  and                                                               
avoiding  federal  reversion.    He further  inquired  about  the                                                               
designee's  orientation  regarding  ADF&G partnering  with  other                                                               
state entities that may  have Pittman-Robertson eligible projects                                                               
or third parties such as sportsmen's groups or municipalities.                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG replied  he  was  shocked at  learning                                                               
that the department  had reverted $3 million  dollars of Pittman-                                                               
Robertson funds  last October.   He noted that he  was intimately                                                               
involved  in the  effort to  get  the license  fees increased  so                                                               
ADF&G wouldn't be reverting Pittman-Robertson  funds.  He said he                                                               
has put  in place a  new director that understands  the potential                                                               
of  reversions  and  understands  the  ramifications  of  what  a                                                               
reversion  means politically.    The department  is taking  steps                                                               
right now to prevent a reversion  in the future and that includes                                                               
partnering with other groups.                                                                                                   
10:21:35 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES  commented that hatcheries have  tremendous economic                                                               
impact  on   state  fisheries  and   fishermen.  She   asked  the                                                               
commissioner-designee to  share his view on  hatcheries and their                                                               
effect  on harvests  statewide and  the  economic gains  realized                                                               
because of hatcheries.                                                                                                          
COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG  responded he understands the  value of                                                               
hatcheries across  the state.   He added that the  hatchery issue                                                               
is geographically different as well  as different by species.  He                                                               
said  he has  encouraged  the Board  of Fisheries  to  look at  a                                                               
solution to  the hatchery  issue geographically,  temporally, and                                                               
by species.  Each region has  unique needs and opportunities.  In                                                               
Southeast  Alaska,  hatcheries  are   a  critical  piece  towards                                                               
providing additional opportunity that was  lost due to the treaty                                                               
negotiations and  is mitigation to those  lost opportunities that                                                               
trollers and  sport fishermen took.   In Southcentral  Alaska, in                                                               
Prince William  Sound, hatcheries are  an economic driver.   That                                                               
said, he is  concerned when he sees that pink  salmon from Prince                                                               
William Sound are  straying into a watershed as far  away as Cook                                                               
Inlet.   He is less concerned  about food predation in  the ocean                                                               
but  is concerned  when he  sees  straying rates  of hundreds  of                                                               
miles from  fish.  While that  was one year and  one year doesn't                                                               
make a  time series, it is  time to look at  that information and                                                               
find out whether  that is a problem he needs  to be worried about                                                               
biologically.   He said  he understands  the value  of hatcheries                                                               
and  is  currently working  for  more  federal funding,  but  the                                                               
impacts of straying are going to be carefully looked at.                                                                        
10:23:47 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  asked whether the  commissioner-designee was                                                               
involved in  the governor's recent  selection of an  appointee to                                                               
the Board of Game.                                                                                                              
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG   answered  that  he   provided  input                                                               
regarding the characteristics  of the person he wanted  to see on                                                               
the board and  found out about the appointment at  about the same                                                               
time as did legislators.                                                                                                        
10:24:18 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE asked  for the commissioner-designee's ideas                                                               
regarding the Magnuson Stevens Act and how it impacts the state.                                                                
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG replied  he does  not support  federal                                                               
management of the  state's fisheries; he believes the  state is a                                                               
better manager of its fisheries  than the federal government.  He                                                               
said he  is working with  the Alaska Congressional  Delegation to                                                               
get the  Magnuson Stevens Act  fixed so  that the state,  not the                                                               
federal government,  is managing  salmon fisheries in  Cook Inlet                                                               
and other areas of  the state.  He said he is  also going to work                                                               
with [fishing] groups to see what their core issues are.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE   VANCE  asked   what  the   commissioner-designee                                                               
intends to  do to build  public trust  in the people  who believe                                                               
that the  state is  not doing  a good  job of  managing fisheries                                                               
resources, which is why they asked for federal management.                                                                      
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG  responded  he will  meet  with  these                                                               
groups and  talk with  them.   He allowed  there won't  always be                                                               
agreement at the end  of the day, but there does  need to be talk                                                               
with these  groups about the fisheries.   He said people  on both                                                               
sides  of an  issue  want stable  and predictable  opportunities,                                                               
whether  that is  commercial, personal  use, or  sport fishermen.                                                               
Finding  that right  balance has  been hard,  other commissioners                                                               
have tried to do  it, and he will too.  He said  he has asked his                                                               
managers to  look at the  regulatory authorities to  ensure there                                                               
are sufficient authorities within his  grasp to be able to manage                                                               
fisheries within a  right balance.  He has also  tried to look at                                                               
the  economics,  but  he  thinks  it is  all  around  stable  and                                                               
predictable opportunity.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  commented that  communication is  key right                                                               
now when  there is  a lot of  distrust and  uncertainty regarding                                                               
the state's resources.                                                                                                          
10:27:12 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  STUTES   requested  the   commissioner-designee's  opinion                                                               
regarding maintaining  the Commercial Fisheries  Entry Commission                                                               
(CFEC) as  an independent  agency as opposed  to merging  it into                                                               
the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.                                                                                         
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG replied  ADF&G  will  do whatever  the                                                               
legislature  pleases.   He thinks  ADF&G can  manage that  and if                                                               
ADF&G having third party of  adjudication is what the legislature                                                               
wants, then ADF&G  is fully ready to absorb that  function.  That                                                               
said,  he thinks  CFEC plays  an important  role in  how Alaska's                                                               
fisheries are  managed and entry  into those fisheries,  and that                                                               
role cannot go away.                                                                                                            
CHAIR STUTES  expressed her  hope that  the commissioner-designee                                                               
will take the opinions of user groups into consideration.                                                                       
10:28:13 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   KREISS-TOMKINS   requested   the   commissioner-                                                               
designee's perspective on priority for personal use fisheries.                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG  answered  that ADF&G  is  neutral  on                                                               
personal  use, but  subsistence is  a priority  as designated  by                                                               
Alaska's constitution.                                                                                                          
10:28:51 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  expressed support for the  CFEC remaining as                                                               
is.    She asked  for  the  department's  commitment to  work  on                                                               
invasive species issues.                                                                                                        
COMMISSIONER VINCENT-LANG  replied he has already  discussed with                                                               
the Office of  Management and Budget his preference  that if CFEC                                                               
is moved  into the department, it  be moved as a  separate entity                                                               
within the Office  of the Commissioner.  He  agreed that invasive                                                               
species are  a problem and has  already asked staff to  work on a                                                               
communications strategy to get in  front of the issue rather than                                                               
being reactive to it.                                                                                                           
10:30:57 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES asked whether the  commissioner-designee is aware of                                                               
the importance of the Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan Fund.                                                                   
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG  responded  he  is  aware  of  it  and                                                               
understands how it has been used.                                                                                               
CHAIR STUTES inquired  whether the commissioner-designee believes                                                               
it is effective enough that it should remain in place.                                                                          
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG answered  he will  have to  study that                                                               
some more before he can speak.                                                                                                  
CHAIR  STUTES  requested   the  commissioner-designees   comments                                                               
regarding  no longer  requiring  logbook  records for  freshwater                                                               
sport fishing.                                                                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  VINCENT-LANG replied  that  one  of budget  savings                                                               
that came  out of the  governor's budget  was a reduction  to the                                                               
logbook program.   He said  the state has treaty  commitments and                                                               
[International  Pacific Halibut  Commission] commitments  to deal                                                               
with the  saltwater portion of it.   So, that is  being continued                                                               
and a request  has been submitted for  additional ADF&G authority                                                               
to  run that  part  of  the program.    Regarding the  freshwater                                                               
portion, he said that in the  areas where ADF&G really needed the                                                               
data on chinook salmon, the  department was collecting it as part                                                               
of creel  surveys, so  ADF&G gave  up that portion  of it.   That                                                               
said, he  has asked staff in  the Division of Sport  Fish to look                                                               
at alternative  ways to  collect information  that is  needed for                                                               
in-season management  short of having  a logbook program.   There                                                               
is not a lot of need for  information on grayling and some of the                                                               
species  that ADF&G  was  collecting  and was  causing  a lot  of                                                               
kickback from some  of the guides in Western Alaska  on why ADF&G                                                               
was using  this information.   So,  ADF&G is  looking at  ways to                                                               
collect  the information  on the  species  that need  it for  in-                                                               
season management in a more cost-effective basis.                                                                               
10:32:44 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES opened public testimony.                                                                                           
10:33:03 AM                                                                                                                   
MARK RICHARDS,  Executive Director,  Resident Hunters  of Alaska,                                                               
testified that  his organization  fully supports  the appointment                                                               
of  Mr.  Vincent-Lang.   He  said  the  commissioner-designee  is                                                               
uniquely qualified for  the position because he  has a background                                                               
in  both  fish  and  game.    He said  he  has  worked  with  the                                                               
commissioner-designee  and has  found Mr.  Vincent-Lange to  be a                                                               
good communicator and listener.                                                                                                 
10:34:18 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES  closed public testimony  after ascertaining  no one                                                               
else wished to testify.                                                                                                         
CHAIR  STUTES stated  she trusts  that the  commissioner-designee                                                               
will live up to his word  and commitments if he is confirmed, and                                                               
that  he will  take good  care of  Alaska's fisheries  and ensure                                                               
they remain healthy and viable.                                                                                                 
10:34:57 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KOPP thanked  the commissioner  designee for  his                                                               
willingness to  step up and  serve.  He applauded  the designee's                                                               
research  background in  the sciences  that are  so necessary  to                                                               
effectively manage  fisheries.  He further  applauded the breadth                                                               
of the designee's  service that connects to the  federal level in                                                               
doing  research and  procuring funds  as  well as  connects to  a                                                               
state  management  level.   He  encouraged  the designee  to  let                                                               
integrity,  science, and  data drive  his decision  making rather                                                               
than political  pressure or  social license.   That is  what will                                                               
keep good  fisheries and  the proper  projects moving  forward to                                                               
keep the state  strong and stable.  He  expressed his unqualified                                                               
support for the designee and  his appreciation for the designee's                                                               
commitment to  state management given  the federal push  more and                                                               
more towards  fish farming in  Alaska waters and  [Alaskans] know                                                               
that wild salmon don't survive around that.                                                                                     
CHAIR  STUTES  thanked the  commissioner  designee  and said  she                                                               
echoes Representative Kopp's comments.                                                                                          
10:36:50 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  STUTES moved  to forward  the name  of Doug  Vincent-Lang,                                                               
commissioner-designee of the Alaska Department  of Fish and Game,                                                               
to the  joint session of  the House and senate  for confirmation.                                                               
She  noted that  the  forwarding of  the commissioner  designee's                                                               
name does not  reflect intent by any of the  committee members to                                                               
vote for  or against  this individual  during the  joint session.                                                               
There being  no objection, the confirmation  of Doug Vincent-Lang                                                               
was advanced from the House Special Committee on Fisheries.                                                                     
10:37:25 AM                                                                                                                   
The committee took an at-ease from 10:37 a.m. to 10:40 a.m.                                                                     
         HB  35-CONFLICT OF INTEREST: BD FISHERIES/GAME                                                                     
10:40:11 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES announced that the  final order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO.  35, "An Act relating to  participation in matters                                                               
before  the Board  of  Fisheries and  the Board  of  Game by  the                                                               
members of the respective boards;  and providing for an effective                                                               
10:40:37 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  EDGMON  moved  to adopt  the  proposed  committee                                                               
substitute  (CS), Version  31-LS0297\M, Bullard,  3/4/19, as  the                                                               
working document.                                                                                                               
CHAIR STUTES objected for purposes of discussion.                                                                               
MATT GRUENING, Staff, Representative  Louise Stutes, Alaska State                                                               
Legislature, on  behalf of Representative Stutes,  prime sponsor,                                                               
explained the  changes to  HB 35  under Version M.   He  said the                                                               
language in the  original bill on page 3, lines  7-15, is deleted                                                               
under Version  M and no new  language was added.   Previously the                                                               
bill had redefined "immediate family  member" for the purposes of                                                               
these two boards.   This definition was in the  bill the last two                                                               
years  and there  was  no  opposition to  that,  and most  people                                                               
seemed  to be  in  support  of the  change.    However, what  the                                                               
sponsor is really trying to do with  this bill is make it so that                                                               
members can deliberate  but not vote and the  sponsor didn't want                                                               
to make  an exception  for just  these two  boards.   The sponsor                                                               
therefore chose to delete that language.                                                                                        
10:42:33 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KOPP  asked whether Version M  would allow members                                                               
of these  boards with a  conflict of  interest to vote  on issues                                                               
before the boards.                                                                                                              
MR. GRUENING replied they would not  be allowed to vote but would                                                               
be  allowed to  deliberate with  the  board.   He explained  that                                                               
under current practice  when a conflict is declared,  a member is                                                               
not allowed to  deliberate and is required to step  down from the                                                               
podium and sit in the audience  until the issue is resolved.  The                                                               
member is not allowed to offer  input on the matter on the public                                                               
record and that is the issue.   Version M would change it so that                                                               
a member [with a conflict] can deliberate but cannot vote.                                                                      
10:43:18 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES requested the context of the bill be presented.                                                                    
MR. GRUENING explained that HB 35  would change the way the Board                                                               
of Fisheries  and the  Board of Game  function by  allowing board                                                               
members  to deliberate  on subjects  for which  the members  have                                                               
declared a  conflict of personal or  financial interest according                                                               
to AS 39.52,  the Executive Branch Ethics Act.   Members of these                                                               
boards are  selected based  on their  knowledge and  abilities in                                                               
the  field of  action  of the  board, with  a  view to  providing                                                               
diversity in interests  and points of view in  membership.  Title                                                               
39 prohibits a member from  taking or withholding official action                                                               
in order  to affect a matter  in which the member  has a conflict                                                               
of personal  or financial interest.   Official action  is defined                                                               
as "Advice,  participation or assistance", which  could include a                                                               
recommendation,  decision,  approval  or  disapproval,  vote,  or                                                               
other similar action, including  inaction, by the public officer.                                                               
Currently, when a  conflict is determined, the  board member must                                                               
step down  and cannot participate.   Under HB 35 [Version  M] the                                                               
board member would be allowed to deliberate but not vote.                                                                       
10:44:35 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES  removed her  objection to the  motion to  adopt the                                                               
proposed CS.   There  being no further  objection, Version  M was                                                               
before the committee.                                                                                                           
10:44:58 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  GRUENING  explained  the bill  would  allow  the  conflicted                                                               
member to offer  his/her input.  The conflicted  member would not                                                               
be allowed to be part of  the vote of the board regarding whether                                                               
the member  has a conflict  of interest.  Currently  the decision                                                               
on a  possible conflict  of interest  is up to  the chair  of the                                                               
board  to decide.   If  board members  disagree with  the chair's                                                               
ruling, a majority  of voting members including  the chair decide                                                               
whether a  conflict exists.   The member whose  possible conflict                                                               
is being voted  upon, is not allowed to participate  in the vote.                                                               
This  process is  consistent with  current practice.   This  bill                                                               
would enable  each of  the boards to  benefit from  the knowledge                                                               
and points of view of all a board's members.                                                                                    
MR  GRUENING pointed  out that  Board of  Fisheries and  Board of                                                               
Game  issues  tend  to be  complex  and  require  knowledge-based                                                               
solutions.  Board  members often have family  or direct financial                                                               
or personal  interests which  are tied  to the  complex knowledge                                                               
the  member would  need  in order  to  understand the  sometimes-                                                               
nuanced discussions of the board.   Members are selected based on                                                               
their knowledge of the field.   Their knowledge would benefit the                                                               
board  discussions and  be  on the  record even  if  they have  a                                                               
personal conflict of interest, but  they should not be allowed to                                                               
vote on an issue if a conflict exists.                                                                                          
10:46:39 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. GRUENING said a concern  regarding how the process is working                                                               
with  these   boards  is  that  off-the-record   discussions  are                                                               
occurring between board members.   The off-the-record discussions                                                               
are  not part  of  the public  record;  the proposed  legislation                                                               
would enable those discussions to occur  on the record.  He said,                                                               
"As a life-long  commercial fisherman, I can't tell  you how many                                                               
times I have heard or  seen really extremely qualified candidates                                                               
say  they don't  want  to  put their  name  in for  consideration                                                               
because they  know they would be  conflicted out of a  lot of the                                                               
proposals  of  which  they  have knowledge  on."    The  proposed                                                               
legislation would allow the member  with the conflict of interest                                                               
to impart  his/her knowledge before recusing  him/herself for the                                                               
vote.   This  should lead  to more  informed decisions,  stronger                                                               
resource management statewide, and  align the process with intent                                                               
regarding  boards benefitting  from  the  members  knowledge  and                                                               
diversity  of viewpoints.   Mr.  Gruening stated  that Version  M                                                               
would allow for board members of  the Board of Game and the Board                                                               
of Fisheries to  deliberate if they have a  conflict of interest,                                                               
but they could not vote on the subject.                                                                                         
MR. GRUENING  walked through the changes  in Version M.   He drew                                                               
attention  to the  language on  page  1, line  12, which  states,                                                               
"except as provided in AS 39.52.220(c)".   He stated that this is                                                               
said again  on page 2, lines  25-26, and that section  is created                                                               
on  Section 3  of the  bill, which  basically says  that for  the                                                               
Board of Fisheries and the Board  of Game only, board members are                                                               
allowed to  deliberate but  not vote.   The  only real  change to                                                               
statute  is in  Section  3 and  the other  two  changes are  just                                                               
references to the section that is created.                                                                                      
10:49:37 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  asked what course of  action is [currently]                                                               
available if  the member  does not recuse  him/herself or  cite a                                                               
conflict of interest but others feel that there is a conflict.                                                                  
MR. GRUENING replied that under AS.  39.52 there is a process for                                                               
complaints to  be filed with  the Attorney General.   He deferred                                                               
to  [Assistant Attorney  General] Bradley  Meyen for  a more  in-                                                               
depth explanation.                                                                                                              
10:50:42 AM                                                                                                                   
BRADLEY  MEYEN,   Senior  Assistant  Attorney   General,  Natural                                                               
Resources Section, Civil Division  (Anchorage), Department of Law                                                               
(DOL), responded  to Representative Vance's question.   He stated                                                               
that  two provisions  could apply:   AS  39.52.230 for  reporting                                                               
violations  and AS  39.52.310 for  complaints.   He confirmed  it                                                               
does  go through  an Attorney  General  process.   While he  does                                                               
Board  of Fisheries  issues,  there is  a  separate section  that                                                               
deals with  appeals of ethics.   He  said a process  is outlined,                                                               
and it is rather detailed.                                                                                                      
10:51:27 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  referred to Section  3 of HB  35, regarding                                                               
"financial interest  relating to the involvement  of the member".                                                               
She noted  that a  similar bill,  HB 44,  cites a  minimum dollar                                                               
amount.  She  asked whether that issue had  been considered under                                                               
HB 35 as a threshold for a conflict to be declared.                                                                             
MR.  GRUENING  answered  that the  Executive  Branch  Ethics  Act                                                               
states  less  than  $5,000  is  considered  insignificant,  while                                                               
anything $5,000  or above  would be  considered significant.   He                                                               
offered his  understanding that AS 39.52.120(1)(d)  provides that                                                               
a  stock  or  ownership  interest   in  a  business  is  presumed                                                               
insignificant if the value or  stock of other ownership interest,                                                               
including an  option to purchase  an ownership interest,  is less                                                               
the $5,000.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  VANCE  said  she  brings this  issue  up  because                                                               
different   bills  have   different   thresholds  for   financial                                                               
conflicts of interest.  She  asked whether Mr. Gruening knows why                                                               
the inconsistency exists.                                                                                                       
MR. GRUENING  replied he was  not sure of the  legislative intent                                                               
regarding the financial differences.                                                                                            
10:53:34 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KOPP drew  attention to the language  in Version M                                                               
[beginning on  page 2, line  31, through  page 3, line  4], which                                                               
     (c) If a member of the  Board of Fisheries or the Board                                                                    
     of  Game discloses  a  personal  or financial  interest                                                                    
     relating  to  the  involvement of  the  member,  or  an                                                                    
     immediate family  member of that member,  in a business                                                                    
     or  organization relating  to fish  or game  resources,                                                                    
     the  member is  not disqualified  from deliberating  or                                                                    
     participating in the matter.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KOPP said  that makes  sense because  people with                                                               
industry, fishery, or  game knowledge are serving  on the boards.                                                               
He then referred to the continuing  language [on page 3, lines 4-                                                               
6], of Version M, which read:                                                                                                   
     If the supervisor  or a majority of the  members of the                                                                    
     respective  board determine  that the  member's further                                                                    
     involvement will result in a  violation of AS 39.52.110                                                                    
     -  39.52.190, the  board  member may  not  vote on  the                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KOPP  opined that  that  is  good, because  those                                                               
[statutes]  address  violations,  including  improper  influence,                                                               
misuse  of official  public position  outside of  employment, and                                                               
improper representation.  He continued:                                                                                         
     What I'm having a hard  time understanding is it sounds                                                                    
     like if it doesn't fall  under that, we're still saying                                                                    
     they can't  vote if they  have a personal  or financial                                                                    
     interest.     Because  you  can  have   a  personal  or                                                                    
     financial interest but  not be in violation  ... per se                                                                    
     of how the statute says that that arrives to a misuse.                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KOPP said  the legislature  tries  to ensure  the                                                               
board is  balanced so that the  voices are balanced on  the board                                                               
and to  ensure balanced outcomes.   He questioned  whether taking                                                               
away the ability to vote would throw the balance of the board.                                                                  
10:57:26 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  GRUENING responded  that, currently,  board  members with  a                                                               
conflict  of  interest  cannot  vote.    The  language  regarding                                                               
"further  involvement   will  result   in  a   violation"  simply                                                               
describes the process  that currently takes place.   The proposed                                                               
change would allow a conflicted  board member to deliberate.  The                                                               
voting  balance  of  the  board was  considered,  but  there  was                                                               
concern regarding the possibility of  a member abusing the system                                                               
for  financial  gain.    The  sponsor  and  community  felt  like                                                               
allowing a conflicted member to vote was a step too far.                                                                        
10:58:57 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE PRUITT  asked,   hy  would we  do this  with these                                                               
two boards and not others?                                                                                                      
MR.  GRUENING answered  that he  was only  aware of  this problem                                                               
with  the two  boards.   User groups  have brought  this specific                                                               
issue forward since changes/revisions to  the Ethics Act in 1988.                                                               
There  was concern  that  in  the attempt  to  fix  the Board  of                                                               
Fisheries and Board of Game,  similar changes to other boards may                                                               
result in unforeseen repercussions.                                                                                             
CHAIR  STUTES  noted that  all  the  boards and  commissions  are                                                               
different.  The Board of Fisheries  and Board of Game are some of                                                               
the few allocative boards.                                                                                                      
MR. GRUENING added  there are professional boards  that have more                                                               
members to cover  the knowledge gaps if one of  the members had a                                                               
conflict of  interest.  The Board  of Fisheries and the  Board of                                                               
Game  only a  single member  may  have knowledge  of the  subject                                                               
being discussed.                                                                                                                
11:01:37 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE PRUITT  discussed his concern  that if HB  35 were                                                               
to pass, other  boards and commissions could  come forward asking                                                               
for similar regulation.                                                                                                         
MR.  GRUENING  said  he doesn't  foresee  the  mentioned  changes                                                               
occurring but agreed it would be possible.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE PRUITT said  it makes reasonable sense  to allow a                                                               
[conflicted]  board member  to  participate  in discussion  share                                                               
expertise.   He said  his real  concern is  that it  appears that                                                               
currently  the conversations  are occurring  "behind the  scenes"                                                               
and  board members  may not  only  bring their  expertise to  the                                                               
conversations  but   might  be  advocating  for   something  that                                                               
personally benefits  them.  He  suggested adding language  to the                                                               
bill that would not allow a  board member to advocate publicly or                                                               
privately for something that would benefit him/her.                                                                             
MR. GRUENING  stated he thought  the Representative Pruitt  has a                                                               
fair point  and he would  look to the will  of the chair  and the                                                               
committee  regarding  whether  that  is a  change  they  wish  to                                                               
11:04:19 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  VANCE  voiced  her  concerns about  the  duty  to                                                               
create consistency  within the  boards.   She suggested  that the                                                               
committee investigate what could be  done to preemptively do what                                                               
is right  for the  public before problems  arise.   She explained                                                               
that  was   her  reason  for   bringing  up  the   dollar  amount                                                               
differences for  conflict of interests  as a legislator  versus a                                                               
board.   She said her concern  is that the public  would not want                                                               
to have  to look  up all the  differences between  the government                                                               
entities  regarding  the  various   standards  for  conflicts  of                                                               
interest.   She expressed her  desire to  keep in mind  the other                                                               
boards and commissions and their future concerns.                                                                               
11:06:32 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES shared  with the committee that HB 35  is the result                                                               
of  requests  by  user  groups.   She  explained  that  it  is  a                                                               
difficult situation  when someone is  on the board who  is unable                                                               
to  share  his  or  her   expertise.    Through  the  years  this                                                               
legislation has  been worked  on, there have  not been  any other                                                               
reports from boards or commission that had similar problems.                                                                    
MR.  GRUENING  noted  he  has  two  additional  letters  for  the                                                               
legislators  packets:   One from the Resident  Hunters of Alaska,                                                               
in  opposition,   and  the  other   from  the   United  Southeast                                                               
Gillnetters Association in support.                                                                                             
11:07:51 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES stated the bill is  one she has been working on with                                                               
the United  Fishermen of  Alaska for  many years.   She  said she                                                               
believes the bill will lead  to more informed decisions, a higher                                                               
quality   of  applicant,   and   improved   public  process   and                                                               
transparency for both boards.                                                                                                   
[HB 35 was held over.]                                                                                                          
11:08:38 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no further business before the committee, the House                                                                 
Special Committee on Fisheries meeting was adjourned at 11:09                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
CSHB 35(FSH) Work Draft ver M 03.04.19.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HB 35
HB 35 Explanation of Changes Ver A to M 03.05.19.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HB 35
HB 35 Fiscal Note-DAS 03.01.19.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HB 35
HB 35 Informational Document BOF-BOG History and Process 03.06.19.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HRES 3/29/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 35
HB 35 Informational Document-ADF&G BOF Ethics Process Overview and Recusals 3.6.19.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HB 35
HB 35 Sponsor Statement 03.05.19.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HB 35
HB 35 Suporting Document SEAFA 03.02.19.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HRES 3/29/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 35
HB 35 Supporting Document UFA 03.06.19.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HRES 3/29/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 35
HB 35 Supporting Documents (Combined) 30th Legislature 03.03.19.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HB 35
HB 35 ver A 02.22.19.PDF HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HB 35
Doug Vincent-Lang DFG_Redacted.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
Confirmation Hearing Doug-Vincent Lang
HB 35 Letter of Support USAG 03.07.19.pdf HFSH 3/7/2019 10:00:00 AM
HB 35