Legislature(2017 - 2018)ADAMS ROOM 519
03/30/2018 01:30 PM FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 231 "An Act relating to the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission; and providing for an effective date." 3:18:27 PM FATE PUTNAM, COMMISSIONER, COMMERCIAL FISHERIES ENTRY COMMISSION (CFEC), DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME, provided a PowerPoint presentation titled "CSHB 231(FSH) Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission." dated March 30, 2018 (copy on file). He began on slide 2 Titled " Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission": The Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) is a regulatory and quasi-judicial agency that is tasked to: Limit entry of participants and vessels into the commercial fisheries Issue and transfer annual commercial fishing permits and vessel licenses Adjudicate appeals of actions including denials of applications and transfers Study, analyze, and report on the economics and stability of commercial fisheries Ensure reliable and timely access to fishery data; and Promote the conservation and sustained yield management of Alaska's commercial fishery resource Assess demerit points against or suspend fishing privileges of permit holders for convictions for violations of commercial fishing laws Mr. Putnam explained that the CFEC licensed all commercial fisheries, whether limited or open. Limited fisheries amounted to 68 and open fisheries totaled approximately 200. The CFEC charged .04 percent per year of ex-vessel income on each licensee and was calculated retroactively. He noted that the CFED had not limited a fishery since 2004 but could, based on monitoring conservation and management data. The fisheries data the CFED collected was compiled into reports and shared with different various state and federal agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). He indicated that fisheries were a sustainable resource providing a return year after year and the CFEC monitored biomass data to ensure resources sustainability as mandated by the constitution. The directive to assess demerit points was adopted by the legislature in 1998 for salmon fisheries and the commission suspended other fisheries permit holders via court order. The court had the ability to suspend fishing licenses in all other areas. 3:22:32 PM SYLVAN ROBB, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATION, moved to slide 3 titled "What HB 231 Does" and addressed what the bill would do as follows: ? Reduces number of commissioners of the CFEC from three to two ? Changes compensation for commissioners: Commissioner serving as chair retains a Range 27($8789/month) Pay for second commissioner is reduced to a Range 24 ($7225/month) ? Removes the CFEC staff from exempt service and assigns them to classified service Division of Personnel/Labor Relations will perform a classification study and place positions on appropriate classified pay scale Current CFEC staff will not receive a reduction in paytheir pay will be "frozen" until the pay scale catches up to the newly classified position New CFEC staff will start at the new Range/Step A Staff will be represented by appropriate unions Supervisors Union (SU) and General Government Unit (GGU) or Confidential Employees Association (CEA) Ms. Robb advanced to slide 4 titled "Why is HB 231 Needed": • Caseload is lighter Decisions from the CFEC have declined over time • Save money Align commissioners to similar ranges of similar positions (OAH, Hearing Officers) Align staff with similar positions in classified service Ms. Robb mentioned the organizational chart on slide 5 titled "Current CFEC Organizational Chart". Vice-Chair Gara asked whether there were decisions commissioners had to make that involved a tie breaking vote. Mr. Putman directed attention to page 2, Section 6 of the legislation: Sec. 6. AS 16.43.110 is amended by adding a new subsection to read: (f) In case of a tie vote between commissioners in an adjudicatory proceeding, the decision of the hearing officer is the final administrative decision of the commission subject to review by a superior court under AS 44.62 (Administrative 22 Procedure Act). Mr. Putman elaborated that adjudicatory decisions were initially made by hearing officers. In the event the current commissioner Dale Kelly and he could not arrive at consensus the decision of the hearing officer would stand subject to appeal by the Superior Court and possibly the Supreme Court. Historically, hundreds of cases were appealed to the Superior Court and 70 cases moved on to the Supreme Court. 3:27:36 PM Vice-Chair Gara asked if there was a reason for two commissioners instead of one. Mr. Putman replied that he had been on the commission for four months; there was a tremendous amount of work and he was very pleased there was a second commissioner. He spoke to the balance made between the two commissioners due to their backgrounds; Ms. Kelly with extensive fisheries experience and Mr. Putnam who was an attorney. He believed reducing the number from three to two was feasible. He related that the transfer decisions the commissioners made were difficult and it was best to utilize "two minds". Representative Wilson asked how many cases historically had been overturned by the commissioners from the hearing officer's administrative decisions and how many cases had the court overturned. Mr. Putman did not have the data. He detailed that 2 or 3 cases out of the 70 Supreme Court cases were overturned. In addition, the Superior Court often remanded decisions back to the commission and the commission could make a redetermination of its decision that went back to the Superior Court. Representative Wilson asked if the commission was necessary when ultimately a licensee could use the courts. Mr. Putman responded that the legislature had initially determined that three commissioners were necessary to weigh and balance the important decisions that were derived from a multimillion- dollar industry. 3:32:12 PM Representative Wilson referred to page 2 of the bill. The bill specified that without two commissioners a single commissioner may exercise all the powers and perform all the duties of the commission. Mr. Putman replied she was referencing Section 2 beginning on page 1, lines 1 through 3. He elucidated that the intent of the provision was only on condition of a vacancy. The section allowed the commission to continue to function. Representative Wilson thought the interpretation was concerning. She deduced that a commissioner may not be appointed, and it would not be the fault of the commission. She spoke to the salary ranges listed in the bill. She wondered if pay increases applied. Ms. Robb answered that the pay would increase over time due to step increases. Representative Wilson asked if the commissioner designee was currently employed by the state and would the starting salary be commensurate with the individual's current salary. Ms. Robb believed she was asking if the person would retain their current step if their range was higher than the starting salary listed. She answered in the affirmative. Representative Wilson wondered why they were unionizing employees. She had heard the only reason for unions were because of bad employers. She wondered why the staff would be unionized. She wondered if there was a problem. Ms. Robb replied in the negative. She detailed that the reason for the classification was the positions were similar to jobs that currently existed in the classified service and the change was appropriate based on the principle of "like pay for like work". 3:36:06 PM Representative Wilson requested a chart to further understand the pay scale for non-unionized individuals. She wanted to compare the current pay and how it would increase over time. She also requested the information on appeals. Co-Chair Seaton spoke to the testimony about a person retaining their steps when transferring to a commissioner position. He thought that if a person was currently working at a lower range the starting salary would begin at a step A of Range 24. Ms. Robb answered in the affirmative. Representative Ortiz asked for a summary of the bill's impact. Ms. Robb answered that the bill reduced the number of commissioners from three to two. In addition, HB 231 reduced the pay range of the commissioner who was not the chair and moved the commission's staff from the exempt service to the classified service. Representative Ortiz asked if the net impact would drive down the cost at CFEC. Ms. Robb responded in the affirmative. She reiterated that the current staff would be held harmless in terms of pay. 3:38:40 PM Representative Pruitt asked for the current number of positions. Mr. Putman referred to the organizational chart on slide 5. He answered that there were 22 positions however, one of the three commissioners were vacant, a legal specialist, executive secretary, clerk, and the research department was vacant. Currently, 15 employees remained. He expected the commission to operate at the reduced level except for possibly hiring one research assistant. Representative Pruitt asked if employees had asked to have their status changed. Ms. Robb answered that there had been some interest from current employees. Co-Chair Foster OPENED public testimony. Co-Chair Foster CLOSED public testimony. Co-Chair Foster announced that amendments were due by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday April 3, 2018. HB 231 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration.