Legislature(2015 - 2016)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
04/14/2015 01:30 PM Senate LABOR & COMMERCE
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HB 41-SPORT FISHING SERVICES 2:41:03 PM CHAIR COSTELLO reconvened the meeting and announced the consideration of HB 41. "An Act relating to sport fishing services, sport fishing operators, and sport fishing guides; and providing for an effective date." [CSHB 41(FIN) AM was before the committee.] 2:41:24 PM REPRESENTATIVE CATHY TILTON, Sponsor of HB 41, explained that HB 41 seeks to re-establish the sport fishing guide and operator licenses which sunsetted on December 31, 2014. This licensure was originally adopted by the legislature in 2004 and implemented by the Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) in 2005. These licenses help to mitigate unmanaged growth of the charter fishing sector while ensuring a basic level of professional certification for individuals who serve the guided recreational fishing public. In re-establishing HB 41, the existing fee structure has been amended making the program revenue positive. The legislation is not meant to single out any sector of the fishing industry, it is simply to continue the program that was already in effect. The bill reestablishes the licenses that have benefited the guided sport fishing industry and the general public and increases the revenue necessary to establish and maintain the electronic logbook program that assists in critical management decisions. SENATOR STEVENS asked how much the fees would be increased. REPRESENTATIVE TILTON replied the fees would double. CHAIR COSTELLO asked if there is any opposition to the bill and who is on record supporting the legislation. 2:44:30 PM KEITH HILYARD, Staff, Representative Cathy Tilton, explained that one person testified in House Finance suggesting a qualified amendment for HB 41 pertaining to federal fisheries management and a guide from MatSu wrote a letter in opposition. Supporting letters have come from several charter operators in Juneau, the Southeast Alaska Guides organization, and several charter operators have testified in support of the bill. He described the charter industry as generally supportive although the salt water guides feel more urgency than fresh water guides. He noted that amendments that passed on the House floor were trying to be responsive to concerns brought forward by fresh water guides. CHAIR COSTELLO asked him to summarize the House floor amendments. MR. HILYARD explained that the requirement that a person holding a sport fishing guide or operator's license must also have a Coast Guard license was removed from Section 4, page 3, lines 10-19. This was done because it placed an undue burden on fresh water guides in Interior Alaska where navigable waters aren't determined and thus a Coast Guard license isn't needed. Second, the sunset date in Section 11 was changed from ten years to five years. 2:47:45 PM CHAIR COSTELLO asked him to review the electronic logbook program. MR. HILYARD explained that ADF&G has discussed an electronic logbook for years. It would aid in the data collection and analysis. The paper logbook is used to help both the state and federal fisheries managers make allocation decisions. The revenue stream associated with the increase would help support the establishment and maintenance of an electronic logbook. He offered his understanding that ADF&G intends to do a beta test in the Kenai River area this summer. SENATOR MEYER asked when the sunset occurs. MR. HILYARD replied it's 2021. CHAIR COSTELLO asked Mr. Mulligan to expand on the discussion of the electronic logbook program. 2:49:36 PM BEN MULLIGAN, Legislative Liaison, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), explained that the infrastructure to get the beta test in place is part of an overall electronic modernization CIP project the department received through the budget several years ago. The program will be expanded depending on the success of the beta test, but it is a priority. CHAIR COSTELLO asked if the department has a position on the bill. MR. MULLIGAN stated that the department supports getting the program back into place. 2:51:39 PM TOM BROOKOVER, Acting Director, Division of Sport Fish, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), stated that the electronic logbook program is a continuing element of the license modernization effort. He reported that the online licensing store was launched about a month ago and the division is looking at two elements to further that initiative. One is to enable personal use permitting and reporting capabilities for the Cook Inlet and Chitna personal use fisheries. Second is a pilot program on the Kenai for an electronic logbook program for charter boats. He related that the department anticipates full implementation in the next year or two. He confirmed Mr. Mulligan's statement that the department supports HB 41. 2:54:10 PM CHAIR COSTELLO opened public testimony. 2:54:31 PM DICK ROHRER, representing himself, Kodiak, Alaska said he has been a big game guide since the early 1970s and a sport fish guide since the early 1980s, and HB 41 potentially jeopardizes his sport fish guiding license. He directed attention to the penalty section on page 5, lines 22-30. He read the provision in subsection (c) and submitted that the penalties are potentially far too severe in cases where the logbook report is not received by ADF&G in a timely manner. He suggested inserting the word "intentionally" on line 22 to clarify that the provision and penalty targets a person who knowingly and intentionally fails to meet the deadline. He explained that for logbook reporting purposes the week runs Monday to Sunday. Any activity on Sunday would have to be submitted to fish and game the following Monday or the guide is in violation of subsection (c). The penalty is very severe if that happens more than once. MR. ROHRER highlighted that the logbook program largely relates to charter boat operators that are in and out of town every day. That is not the case for guides that operate remotely, particularly guides operating in Interior areas and/or big game guides that have a client who wants to do incidental fishing. He provided an example to illustrate the timing difficulties that remote guides face. He flies a bear hunting client to his camp on Kodiak Island on Saturday April 18 for a two week hunt. The client does incidental fishing on Saturday and Sunday April 18 and 19 so the logbook report for that incidental fishing is due on April 27. The client isn't flying back until May 2 so he as the guide has to charter a plane at a cost of $1,000 to pick up that logbook report. MR. ROHRER pointed out that legislation that was considered several years relating to the sport fish guiding industry included an exemption clause for big game guides who had clients that did incidental sport fishing while on a contracted big game hunt. He suggested that the exemption is appropriate in these circumstances. 2:59:40 PM CHAIR COSTELLO announced that she would hold HB 41 in committee with public testimony open.