Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/25/2003 03:35 PM Senate STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 69-BOARD OF FISHERIES CONFLICTS OF INTEREST CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked Senator Wagoner to introduce SB 69. SENATOR THOMAS WAGONER, bill sponsor, explained the bill allows the members of the Board of Fisheries to participate and vote on matters before the board even though they may have a conflict of interest. They would be required to disclose any conflicts they may have, but they could then participate. The Board of Fisheries is composed of individuals who are selected due to their expertise in different areas of the fishing industry. If a member has a conflict of interest on an issue, it is likely that individual also has a great deal of knowledge or experience in that area. When a member is conflicted out of an issue before the board, they may speak on the topic for just five minutes after which they must participate as a member of the public. This is counterproductive to the fishing industry. SENATOR JOHN COWDERY asked if members had to declare their conflict then ask permission of other board members to be able to vote. SENATOR WAGONER replied he was correct. SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS said she must have misread the bill. She asked if there was the option for the rest of the board to disallow the conflicted member to vote. She thought the bill said the member would vote. SENATOR WAGONER acknowledged he misunderstood Senator Cowdery's question and Senator Guess was correct. CHAIR GARY STEVENS recapped and stated current rules do not allow the member to debate from the podium or vote the issue. SENATOR WAGONER agreed; a conflicted member could not participate or speak to the issue as a member of the board. SENATOR GUESS announced she stays away from issues she has expertise in because it's inappropriate, but she sees that this requirement could present a problem for the board. She asked if there was a reason this solution was selected rather than asking other board members to make a determination on a case-by-case basis. SENATOR WAGONER advised Ms. Sutton could better answer the question. He was carrying the bill for the Fish Caucus. MS. CHERYL SUTTON, staff to Senator Ben Stevens and the Salmon Industry Task Force, said this was a subjective process. A standard was needed in conflict situations and this was a clean process. There were no further questions for Ms. Sutton. MR. JERRY McCUNE, United Fishermen of Alaska representative, testified in support of SB 69. Members are selected to the board because of their expertise and it is vital all board members are able to participate in the decision making process. The present system wastes expertise and knowledge. MS. CORA CROME, Petersburg Vessel Owners Association representative, testified in support of SB 69. An effective lay board is dependent on the knowledge and expertise of its members. Appointees are typically selected because of their knowledge of the state's fishery and this knowledge is usually gained by participation in fishery business. She has seen the board struggle to make the best decisions for a fishery while the board member who could provide the best advise to the board is sitting in the audience and unable to speak. MR. KEN DUCKETT, executive director of the United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters Association, testified via teleconference that he agrees with Ms. Crome and Mr. McCume. He attended recent Board of Fish meetings on finfish in Ketchikan and watched the board struggle with specific local issues that the Petersburg member could have easily spoken to. Unfortunately, that member had to sit in the audience and not participate. He emphasized the Association's support of the bill. There was no further testimony. CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a motion. SENATOR COWDERY made a motion to move SB 69 from committee with individual recommendations and zero fiscal note. There being no objection, it was so ordered.