Kodiak is all about fish and I’d like to begin this letter by sending a big congratulations to local angler Mike Olsen! Mike caught a 30.4-pound king to beat out 1,321 other anglers and win the top prize in the Homer Winter King Tournament. Speaking of fish, ComFish Alaska 2015 will be April 2-4 at the Kodiak Convention Center. There is a vendor meet and greet from 4-5 p.m. and free beer (while it lasts). Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotton and I will be attending. If you see me say hello and let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.
Medicaid expansion is the question of the week. House Bill 148 is in the Health and Social Services Committee. This bill calls for the Department of Health and Social Services to look at all options available to improve the Medicaid program and limit its costs.
The bill directs the Department to develop further reforms by:
• Pursuing demonstration projects for models for payment reform and service delivery.
• Enhancing telehealth capability and reimbursement to incentivize telehealth delivery
• Streamlining audit requirements to coordinate required federal and state audits and reduce the burdens that audits create for providers
• Providing emergency regulation authority to be able to implement savings opportunities quickly.
We held our first State of the Salmon conference. Folks from all parts of the state called in or presented — we had commercial fishermen, industry representatives, sport anglers and subsistence users.
The overarching theme is how important salmon are to Alaskan’s, both historically, currently and in the future. The commercial fishing industry is the second largest industry and the largest private employer in the state.
Approximately 38,000 people in 126 communities across the state are directly employed in the commercial salmon sector.
Many more are dependent on salmon for their livelihood as sport charter guides, indirect employees or subsistence users. If you’d like to see the presentations for yourself they are available on BASIS on the Alaska Legislature Website under the Fisheries Committee banner.
My first piece of personal legislation, House Bill 112 “Repeal the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC), Transfer Functions to Dept. of Fish Game (DFG),” passed from The Fisheries Committee on Thursday, March 26.
House Bill 112 bill repeals the CFEC and transfers the commission’s other duties to the Department of Fish and Game. HB 112 assigns the commission’s adjudicatory functions to the Office of Administrative Hearings, an independent office that manages a multitude of hearings for other state agencies.
During the last hearing, many concerned fishermen called in to make sure their permits will still be issued in a timely manner.
I’ve spoken with DFG and they are confident they can handle permit adjudications, transfer permits and do emergency permit transfers with the same efficiency as CFEC. There was also concern that in eliminating the CFEC the experienced staff would be lost.
HB112 moves all 28 staffers from CFEC to DFG, so the same people would be handling research and license applications. This bill eliminates the three CFEC commissioners, whose combined salaries top $600,000.
It ensures that funds generated through the sale of limited entry permits and vessel licenses are used to the maximum benefit of those who depend on the resource — the fishermen. The state is facing hard economic times and many services the government has traditionally provided are being scaled back.
I do not want to see fishermen suffer from budgetary shortfalls. Moving CFEC into DFG will streamline the permitting process and save the state money, but most importantly it will safeguard the commercial fleet’s permits. HB112 heads to the Resources Committee next.
I have another piece of legislation that will be hitting the Fisheries Committee soon, House Concurrent Resolution 10 — “Supporting the Alaska Maritime Workforce Development Industry Advisory Committee and further efforts to carry out the Alaska Maritime Workforce Development Plan.”
HCR10 declares the Legislature’s recognition of the need for the Alaska Maritime Workforce Development Plan and conveys it’s support for the Alaska Maritime Workforce Industry Advisory Committee, whose guidance and leadership will be an integral component of the implementation of the Plan.
I am hopeful that this resolution will spur more development in the maritime industry to create “blue collar, high dollar” jobs for Alaskans.
Fisheries Committee schedule:
On Thursday, April 2, we will be hearing House Bill 103, “Boards of Fish and boards of Game Regulatory authority.” Go to the LIO to participate.
The Kodiak Assembly visits the Capitol. If you happen to be in Juneau I would love to sit down for a chat.