Legislative Update: House remains dedicated to passing a responsible budget

Testify on Friday, March 2 at the Cordova LIO on the state’s operating and mental health budgets

Cordova mayor Clay Koplin chatted with Rep. Louise Stutes , R-Kodiak, during NVE’s 23rd Annual Sobriety Celebration Nov. 12. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

Greetings from Juneau,

This week marks the halfway point of the statutory 90-day legislative session. The House remains dedicated to passing a responsible budget and finding a way forward with a sustainable fiscal plan, and I am hopeful that the Legislature can reach agreement as we approach the final weeks of session. I’ll update you as things develop.

I’d like to take a moment to update you on what has been happening in the Fisheries Committee this past week.

Fisheries

On Thursday, Feb. 22, the House Fisheries Committee heardouHHjklsklsk a terrific presentation from Dr. Bradley Moran, Dean of UAF College of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences on the college itself, the research being done throughout the state, and the positive effect this research and applied sciences have on our fisheries. You can view the presentation by typing the following link into your web browser: goo.gl/TPGk5W

On Tuesday, Feb. 20, and again on Tuesday, Feb. 27, the committee heard HB 260 by Rep. Dan Saddler. HB 260 is an exciting piece of legislation that would allow for the electronic possession of licenses, tags or identification cards for sports fishermen, hunters, and trappers. This means instead of having to carry a physical paper identification card, licenses could be stored and displayed on a smartphone or similar device.

I’ve been having discussions with CFEC about the implementation of an electronic system, and ultimately, it is my goal to have the same system apply to commercial fishing.

 

Board of Fisheries

At their recent meeting in Sitka, the Board of Fisheries passed a proposal that myself, Sen. Stevens, and Cordova District Fishermen United are very concerned about.

Proposal 165, as noticed, was viewed by user groups as a housekeeping measure to adjust the marker, but what was ultimately voted on after it was amended by RC 331 was a very substantive shift in allocation that will cripple the set net commercial fishery on the Tsiu River.

To view Proposal 165 and RC 331 go to goo.gl/JaVseH and goo.gl/doummt

Basically, the public notice did not align with the intent of the Alaska Administrative Procedures Act as no one would have known that the proposal would affect allocation. The result was that there was a lack of representation at the meeting from the community of Yakutat.

Myself and Sen. Stevens wrote a joint letter to the board urging that they address this at the upcoming Board meeting on March 6.

Cordova District Fishermen United also wrote a letter to the board requesting identical action.

Specifically, we requested that the Board of Fisheries take up reconsideration of the proposal as amended or make a board-generated proposal to readdress the situation on the Tsiu River. If reconsideration is no longer possible, we requested that they formulate a board-generated proposal at the meeting that mirrors the original language in Proposal 165, put it out for public notice, and hold a special meeting in April to take up the proposal before the commercial fishery this fall.

This effort to segregate commercial and sports fishermen on the river through the board process is nothing new. It has been attempted multiple times and has been fully discussed, considered, and defeated or overturned under reconsideration every time. Proposal 301, which failed 3-4 upon reconsideration, as well as ACR 9, which also failed 3-4, at the 2012 October work session were nearly identical to Proposal 165. Another Proposal, 247, which failed 1-6, in March of 2013 was much of the same. Because of this ongoing effort, a group of local entities and individuals approached the Board and set in place a process to form the Tsiu River stakeholders working group.

This group was formed with the expressed purpose of engaging in a collaborative process with all stakeholders on the river to address concerns of user groups. Participants include lodge owners, Yakutat Seafoods, guide businesses, subsistence users, commercial and sports fishermen, Yakutat Coastal Airlines, the city and borough of Yakutat, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Since the formation of the working group, annual meetings have been held in accordance with the agreement with the board and conflicts have not been evident. All stakeholders were invited to participate, and it has been very successful in resolving any conflicts that have arisen between user groups.

I am very concerned about the precedent set when proposals are amended to the point where the public notice wouldn’t actually provide a reasonable person of notice of what would be voted on. Moreover, in this case, there is seemingly a subversion of an agreement with the Board of Fisheries, as well as a collaborative public process that has been effective in keeping user groups happy with access to their respective fisheries.

Hopefully, the large volume of letters that the board received on this issue are enough to prompt their reconsideration of Proposal 165.

I intend to take a look at legislation in the future regarding how the Board of Fisheries notices and amends proposals to ensure that the public is kept in the loop about potential changes that could affect them.

 

Public Testimony: Operating and Mental Health Budget

Public testimony for the Operating & Mental Health Budgets started Thursday, and the Cordova Legislative Information Office is slotted for public testimony on Friday March 2 from  4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

  • If you are interested in testifying, please arrive 30 min. prior to end of allotted time or testimony will close early
  • Select a spokesperson if you are part of a group with the same message
  • If you would like to send written testimony, please email it to: housefinance@akleg.gov
  • If you cannot make it to the LIO in the allotted time, you can call 907-465-4648 between 4:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to obtain the call-in number for testimony

Your input is crucial to the crafting of the budget, please consider testifying today if you have any input you would like to share. On the same note, remember to check my Facebook page (facebook.com/RepLouiseStutes) at the end of each week for upcoming committee schedules and public testimony opportunities happening in the legislature.

If you would like to take part in any of the public testimony opportunities on other bills of interest, please let my office know by calling 465-4648, or by emailing me at Rep.Louise.Stutes@akleg.gov.

All meetings can be viewed at www.akl.tv

As always, please contact me and tell me how you feel. Whether your thoughts are on the budget, new revenue, fisheries or transportation issues, or something that is important to you and your family, I’m here for you and will always endeavor to work on your behalf.

 

Sincerely,

Louise Stutes

State House Representative for District 32

Proudly Serving Kodiak, Cordova, Yakutat, and Seldovia

Rep.Louise.Stutes@akleg.gov

(907) 465-2487

facebook.com/RepLouiseStutes
twitter.com/RepLouiseStutes