Legislature(1995 - 1996)
01/24/1996 03:35 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SRES 1/24/96 SB 128 NONRESIDENT HUNT, SPORT FISH, TRAP FEES SENATOR LEMAN announced SB 128 to be up for consideration. SENATOR DONLEY, sponsor, said one of the first things he thought of when he was elected were the out-of-state fishing interests coming to Alaska and using our fish resources, but taking that money out- of-state. Because of the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution, we are limited as to how much we can charge out-of-state commercial fishing interests for licensing of not more than three to one. In the private area the fees are much more liberal in allowing states to discriminate between residents and non-residents. Several people have complained about abuse by non-residents who buy a sport-fish license and fish all summer on the beaches of Alaska, and as they caught their fish day-by-day, they were processing, canning, and shipping it home. This amounts to almost a commercial license amount of fish. SB 128 addresses the issue of what we charge residents vs. non- residents for sport fishing licenses and also, what we charge for sport hunting licenses. It also addresses the issue of what we charge our residents for multiple use licenses. As the law is now, there is no incentive for an individual Alaskan to buy a combination license, but it costs the State more when they buy three separate licenses, because we pay vendors $1 per individual license issued. He thought some people would go ahead and buy a combination, if there was any incentive at all to do so. This bill would save them some money, $5, and save the State a lot of paper work. The $5 negative impact would be offset by the savings realized by not having to pay a vendor $1 for every individual license they issue. The way to fix the other problem of people fishing for a year on one license and exporting their fish is to not let them buy a license for a year. Have them buy a license for a shorter period of time and have them repeatedly go back and buy them, if they want to. This isn't a solution, but it limits the duration of the license and the added fees adds a little to revenue. SENATOR DONLEY said the hunting section is more complex. He looked at what other states were charging and said that his fees were not terribly out of line with what we would encounter going to another state for hunting. He said he has heard from some people in the guiding business that this would be cost-prohibitive for some folks coming up here. The majority of the revenue generated for the Department from fees comes from non-residents and this would reduce the Department's income significantly. One basis for this was a survey done by the ADF&G. He found that the survey didn't really ask these questions in a manner that would lead to the conclusions that they draw. Number 364 SENATOR DONLEY said he found that Alaska is rather unique in that most states don't have a separate alien non-resident classification which he wanted to preserve. SENATOR TAYLOR said in Canada, you only buy a trophy tag after you've harvested an animal. He noted that Debra Lyons was not kept on the Board of Fish, because she tried to correct the same problem Senator Donley is trying to correct with this legislation. Number 281 SENATOR TAYLOR applauded Senator Donley for introducing this legislation and added that he would like to see the issue targeted even more. SENATOR HALFORD agreed that there was definitely a problem. He said that Sections 4, 5, 6, 9, 11, and 12 all deal with the duration of license in one way or another. He suggested that the change in resident licenses in sections 1,2, and 3 is insignificant. The changes in the tag fees are probably so progressive that they would result in a reduction of over-all income, so he suggested dropping that portion. He would make all resident and non-resident hunting and fishing consistently 30-day licenses, with the exception of the king salmon tag which he has at 14-days. He thought that would work logically and administratively. SENATOR HALFORD also thought that the possession limit shouldn't be defined the way it is with regards to fish, because that means there is no limit to what you can catch, if you have a freezer on- board. He thought there should be an ultimate limit for sports fishing. SENATOR TAYLOR added that he didn't want "fish in possession" to include the captain of charter boat and the captain's helper. Number 281 WAYNE REGELIN, Director, Division of Wildlife, said the increases in the fees could significantly reduce their income. About half of their income is from license fees and tags. Doubling those would make us non-competitive with British Columbia and the Yukon which are our primary competitors for non-resident hunters. About 10% of hunters in Alaska take about 10% of game each year, but they pay for 75% of the bill. Most of them don't compete with resident hunters. They have to be careful to maintain a reasonable ratio between the cost for a resident and non-resident to hunt. Courts have never said what that ratio needs to be. A recent appeals court ruled that 1:7 was reasonable, but they didn't go on to say where that became unreasonable. Right now, current fees are $25 for a resident moose license, and $485 for a non-resident (a ratio of 1:19). The proposed change would make it 1:34. He thought that might get us in trouble. The final concern was with helping out people who move to Alaska, who can't buy a resident hunting or fishing license until they've been here a full year. They have to buy a series of licenses until they become official residents. Number 236 SENATOR TAYLOR said it's probably appropriate that a wealthy European pays for the privilege of hunting over here, but he had a problem with relatives of residents coming to visit for just three weeks and being charged $80 a piece just so they can fish. He also said that it was prohibitive for his son to come home for a week and hunt deer on Wrangell Island. NEIL WEBSTER, Alaska Professional Hunters Association, applauded Senator Donley's bill. The only problem he has is with the fee structure for non-residents and non-resident aliens. He thought we have to be competitive with B.C. where they have tag fees after the animal has been harvested. In Alaska, we sell hunts, not the killing of animals, but increased fees will have a negative impact on our tourism industry, he said. Number 157 DON WESTLUND said he was concerned with having to be in the State for 365 days consecutively to get a resident license. He was concerned that this looked like a revenue-generating bill. If you compare what commercial people take out of Alaska to what sport people take out, the commercial take far more resource for far less money. He wanted a higher fee for commercial fishing, because they take more resource. He also commented that enough people would still come to the State with the higher fees. WAYNE KUBAT said he was a registered hunting guide for the past 11- years. He said he grossed $130,000 last year and netted $30,000. He thought it would be a lot tougher to book hunts, if fees are raised. He said we have world-wide competition, like in Russia where there aren't many regulations. Number 61 ROD ARNO said he had been a wilderness hunting and fishing guide in Alaska for the last 20 years. He supported Senator Donley's idea of increasing revenues to the State through the non-resident sport fishermen. They make up 50% of sport fishermen. They are marketed by the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council. He opposed an increase in the non-resident hunting tags and fees. Non-resident hunters harvest less than 10% of the annual harvest of wild game. Yet the non-resident fees pay for over 75% of the $150 million spent by the Division of Wildlife since 1980. The Alaska State game hunting industry continues to have no representation on the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council. SENATOR TAYLOR asked what percentage of these fees are dedicated as program receipts by the Department. MR. REGELIN replied, 100%; it first goes into a dedicated fish and game fund and then it goes back to either the Division of Sport Fish or Division of Wildlife Conservation.