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Governor Signs Stedman, Williams Bills in Ketchikan
Affecting Salmon and Dive Fisheries, Food Safety Program, and More


July 05, 2004

Ketchikan, Alaska - Governor Frank Murkowski on Saturday signed eight fisheries-related and other bills while in Ketchikan. The fisheries bills relate to the dive fishery, salmon seine boat length, disclosure of the origin of salmon and taxes on directly marketed salmon. The remaining four bills relate to taxation of attorneys' fees, federal forest receipts, an overhaul of the state's food safety program, and state primacy for water pollution permits related to timber harvesting activities.

SB 286, sponsored by Sen. Bert Stedman, helps small direct marketing fishermen by lowering the tax rate on such fishermen who engage in value-added processing while off-shore. The state's current tax structure imposes a "double hit" on these fishermen. The first hit is that they pay a higher rate (5%) than shore-side processors. The second hit is that the tax is applied to the value of the product, which the fishermen have increased by doing work on the catch at sea to allow them to direct market the fish.

SB 300, also sponsored by Sen. Stedman, eliminates double taxation of court awarded attorney fees by clearly providing that fee awards or payments made to the client belong exclusively to the attorney. Without this change, both the attorney being paid the fees, and the client or prevailing party the attorney represents, are liable for federal income tax on the full amount of the fees.

SB 328, also sponsored by Sen. Stedman, gives the Department of Community and Economic Development the statutory authority it needs to adopt regulations and implement the federal forest receipts program. That program was revised in 2000 by the federal Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act. SB 328 also corrects a statutory problem created by the merger of the former Department of Commerce and Economic Development and former Department of Community and Regional Affairs by providing the department with general regulation authority to carry out its statutory functions.

HB 341, sponsored by Rep. Bill Williams, was requested by the Southeast Alaska Dive Fishery Association (SARDFA) to provide more flexibility in deciding which self-assessment rates are most appropriate for each dive fishery species. Fee revenues are collected by the state and may be appropriated to the Department of Fish and Game for funding of regional dive fishery or development associations, research, management, or development. The bill authorizes new levels of self-assessed fees for dive fisheries at 2,4, or 6 percent. Currently, dive fishermen can choose to impose a fee of 1,3,5, or 7 percent of the value of their catch on themselves. Presently, only the dive fishermen in Southeast Alaska have opted to impose a fee or self-assessment on the value of their catch. The fee is set by the fishermen voting in an election.

HB 409, also sponsored by Rep. Williams, authorizes longer salmon seine vessels. Current law limits the length of seine vessels to 58 feet. The bill relaxes that restriction by authorizing the Board of Fisheries to allow the use of longer vessels in the salmon seine fishery. This bill will put salmon seine vessels on the same footing as all other commercial fishing boats in the state. At present, the 58-foot limit on salmon seiners is the only length limit enshrined in statute. The length and size of all other fishing boats can be changed by the Board of Fisheries.

HB 378, sponsored by Rep. Williams on behalf of the Governor, provides a major overhaul of the state's food safety program, although the Department of Environmental Conservation will continue to conduct food safety audits and inspections. The bill implements the "Active Managerial Control" as a comprehensive food safety system.
Its main points are training and certifying food handlers and operators of establishments serving food and requiring them to be responsible for controlling food handling practices and procedures that contribute to food-borne illness. The bill requires DEC to issue regulations to implement the bill, and DEC will give the public and stakeholders the opportunity to have input into how the regulations are drafted through a series of workshops.

The governor read and signed HJR 5, sponsored by Rep. Williams. This resolution places on this November's general election ballot the issue of whether to change the geographic signature requirements for sponsors to get their initiative on the ballot before the voters. The goal of the legislation is to get more areas of the state involved in deciding whether an initiative should be on the ballot. Current law requires initiative sponsors to obtain a minimum of one signature from residents of at two-thirds (27 out of 40) house districts. If approved by voters, this threshold would increase to three-quarters (30 out of 40) house districts.

HJR 5 also requires the total number of signatures in each district to amount to at least 7 percent of the total number of votes cast in that district in the most recent election. The total number of signatures required will remain at 10 percent of the votes cast in the most recent election.

HB 31, sponsored by Rep. Williams, makes conforming amendments to existing statutes and would go into effect if HJR 5 is approved by the voters. The bill conforms the requirements to get an initiative on the ballot to those made by HJR 5.

HB 522, sponsored by the House State Affairs Committee (Juneau Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, Chair), regulates discharges from small cruise ships. DEC worked with the small cruise ship companies and the Legislature to reach an acceptable solution to the problem of discharges from small cruise ships not covered by existing laws. DEC will establish discharge standards through regulation that will be effective and tailored to the small cruise ship industry.

HB 459, sponsored by Valdez Rep. John Harris, authorizes the director of the Division of Elections to allow for voting by use of electronically generated ballots. The bill sets out standards for the use, counting, and creation of a paper record in certain instances for electronically generated ballots.

SB 351, sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee (Wasilla Sen. Lyda Green, Co-Chair), allows persons required to file documents and reports with the Alaska Public Offices Commission to submit paper documents and reports. Currently, APOC only accepts electronic filings.

HB 546, introduced by the governor, directs the Department of Environmental Conservation to take primacy for administering the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for timber-related activities. "We introduced this bill as a further commitment to seek permit reform," Murkowski said. "It is our ultimate goal in permit reform to make sure permitting, compliance and enforcement are done by Alaskans who are knowledgeable about Alaskan conditions.

"This bill takes an important step in this direction. It directs DEC to take the primary role in water discharge permitting for the timber industry. This bill will combine two permit actions, one federal and one state, into a single permit from the state. This process can work for more than just timber ­ we intend to work with other industry sectors to seek the same improvement for them."

HB 196, sponsored by Anchorage Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, requires the commissioners of DNR and DEC to study carbon sequestration, assess Alaska's ability to participate in carbon trading, review carbon sequestration programs and policies in other states, and prepare reports on these issues. DNR is directed to find and apply for funding to perform its duties by contacting the Federal Department of Energy and other private sources.

SB 282, sponsored by Juneau Sen. Kim Elton, adds a requirement that restaurants or food establishments disclose whether fish on their menus is wild or farmed.


Source of News Release:

Office of the Governor
Web Site



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