Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/02/2004 03:30 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
        HJR 34-FED TRAINING AND ASSISTANCE FOR FISHERMEN                                                                    
CHAIR SCOTT  OGAN called the Senate  Resources Standing Committee                                                             
meeting  to  order at  3:30  p.m.  Present were  Senators  Thomas                                                               
Wagoner, Ben  Stevens, Ralph Seekins,  Kim Elton and  Chair Scott                                                               
Ogan.  Senators  Fred Dyson  and  Georgianna  Lincoln arrived  at                                                               
3:37. The  first order of  business to come before  the committee                                                               
was CSHJR 34(FSH).                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE DAN  OGG, sponsor,  introduced Melissa  Dover, his                                                               
staff person who worked on HJR 34.                                                                                              
MS.  MELISSA DOVER,  staff  to Representative  Ogg,  said HJR  34                                                               
relates to  Alaska's commercial  salmon fishermen  qualifying for                                                               
federal  trade adjustment  assistance and  was introduced  at the                                                               
request of the Joint Legislative Salmon Industry Task Force.                                                                    
As salmon  imports have increased,  Alaska salmon  fishermen have                                                               
experienced a sharp decline in  the price. The U.S. Department of                                                               
Agriculture  (USDA)  and  the  Department  of  Labor  have  trade                                                               
adjustment assistance  programs to help workers  whose industries                                                               
have been hurt by imports. The  USDA provides cash benefits of up                                                               
to  $10,000  and  the Department  of  Labor  provides  retraining                                                               
benefits.  Last   year,  Alaska's  salmon  fishermen   were  made                                                               
eligible for  these programs, however the  programs were designed                                                               
primarily for  agricultural workers  and fishermen  have problems                                                               
qualifying for them.                                                                                                            
Many fishermen  don't qualify  for the  program because  of other                                                               
income  that  counts  as  fishing income  on  their  federal  tax                                                               
returns,  such as  Exxon payments  from the  1989 oil  spill. The                                                               
resolution asks  for four  specific things. It  asks the  USDA to                                                               
extend price  adjustment benefits to salmon  fishermen who fished                                                               
five of  the six years  in the qualifying  years 1997 -  2002 and                                                               
subsequent qualifying years, if  Alaska salmon fishermen continue                                                               
to qualify for these programs -  if they can prove that they lost                                                               
income or  lost their market  due to  imports. It also  asks that                                                               
the Department  of Labor extend  retraining benefits to  the same                                                               
group of people. It requests that  the Congress and the USDA make                                                               
salmon  a  covered  commodity, which  would  make  Alaska  salmon                                                               
fishermen eligible  for various  other kinds of  relief. Finally,                                                               
it requests  that the United  State Secretary of  Commerce pursue                                                               
the creation  of a trade  adjustment assistance  program specific                                                               
to commercial fishermen.                                                                                                        
CHAIR OGAN asked what trade adjustment assistance is.                                                                           
MS. DOVER answered  that it's a federal program  with sections in                                                               
the  USDA  and  U.S.  Department  of Labor.  The  USDA  has  cash                                                               
benefits of up  to $10,000 to workers whose  industries have been                                                               
hurt by  imports and the  Department of Labor  extends retraining                                                               
benefits to the same group of people.                                                                                           
CHAIR OGAN asked if fishermen  would be retrained to do something                                                               
MS. DOVER  replied not  in all  cases. Some  people learn  how to                                                               
better market their fish and things like that.                                                                                  
MR. MARK VINCEL, Executive Director,  United Fishermen of Alaska,                                                               
supported HJR 34 and offered  to clarify questions about the USDA                                                               
program. There were no further questions.                                                                                       
SENATOR  KIM ELTON  moved to  pass CSHJR  34(FSH) from  committee                                                               
with the  attached fiscal note.  There were no objections  and it                                                               
was so ordered.                                                                                                                 

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