Legislature(1995 - 1996)

01/24/1996 03:35 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                            
 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               
 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.                                                        

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