The ghost boat bill addressing derelict vessels sailed on home in the closing hours of the Alaska Legislature, allowing local governments more control over cleaning up or clearing out the vessels.
HB 131 is a first step toward fixing a boatload of problems faced by harbors around the state. It updates long-outdated statutes that placed the delegation for authority to take control of the vessels with the state,which operated harbors. The statute was written in the late 1970s but harbor ownership was transferred to municipalities in 1980.
Rachel Lord, the outreach and monitoring coordinator at Cook Inletkeeper, helped educate legislators and others about the bill. Lord works with coastal communities to clean up harbors.
Homer spent a lot of legal money developing strong ordinances and processes to deal with these vessels, Lord said. But other harbors around the state may not have measures in place. Now statewide legislation helps give all communities more power.
For example, Rep. Paul Seaton, in sponsoring the bill, wrote in a provision stating that a vessel stored more than 14 days in state waters has to remove its boat fuels and other bio hazards.
“It’s the beginning of a long road. We’re working with the Harbormasters Association and others in developing an ad hoc task force to bring stakeholders together to start having the conversation about what would a statewide abandoned derelict program look like?” Lord said. “ Would it be possible to develop a fund? How can we prevent the vessels from sinking in the first place? That would saves us a ton of money and from having hazardous fuels and batteries going into the water.”
There is a list of abandoned vessels accumulating statewide as the state Department of Natural Resources seeks to document them.-
Rep. Paul Seaton worked with his House colleagues to block the unconstitutional addition of a separate bill into legislation that would extend the existence of the 13 Alaska Regional Development Organizations (ARDORs). The Senate attempted to roll the language from SB 54 extending the vessel limited entry system for Weathervane Scallop and Korean Hair Crab into a House Bill extending the ARDOR program, HB 71.
This move put HB 71 in violation of the constitutional requirement that legislation be limited to a single subject. The House voted to not concur with the Senate changes. Because the Senate did not rescind its action in adopting the version of the bill which contained the additional subject, the bill did not pass this session. Unfortunately because the Senate failed to take action, the ARDOR program will sunset on July 1. The vessel-based limited entry program sunsets on Dec. 30.
The Senate Finance Committee pulled the language of SB 54 currently in the House Fisheries Committee and amended it into HB 71.
Seaton has long been an opponent of the vessel limited entry program for Weathervane Scallops and Korean Haircrab as it is inconsistent with the approach taken in the rest of the state water fisheries where the limited entry permit is allocated to a person. In 2002 the legislature adopted the temporary permit vessel limited entry program. That policy led to a rapid and extreme consolidation, Seaton said, leaving 90 percent of the scallop fishery in the hands of a Washington-based corporation. The F/V Kilkenny based currently out of Kodiak, but making frequent trips to Homer, is the only Alaskan scallop operation in state waters, Seaton said. While it has not been litigated, there is a strong potential that the consolidation of the state water fishery to essentially two working vessels may be in violation of the constitutional prohibition on special right of fishery. ADF&G will need to move rapidly to implement a program for the state water scallop fishery such as that they proposed to implement in 2008, Seaton said.
Attempting to extend this controversial program by rolling it into the non-controversial ARDORs bill, caused the failure of the extension of the ARDORS. The Kenai Economic District is one of the 13, as is the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. Seaton expressed disappointment that political maneuvering in this way caused disruption to these organizations he feels do important work in their regions. For now, all 13 are sunset and await a new legislative session to seek a solution.
Gov. Sean Parnell’s legislation giving Alaskans a tax break passed the House Thursday and headed to the Senate.
The bill allows for the suspension of Unemployment Insurance tax increases when the Alaska UI Fund is deemed solvent. Current law requires payroll increases from employers and employees, even if the UI Trust Fund is solvent. As of March 15, the Alaska Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund had a balance of $257 million.
“I applaud the House for passing this legislation to stop this automatic tax increase on Alaskans so that Alaskans can keep more of their hard-earned money,” Parnell said.
Also included within the governor’s bill are provisions that enable Alaska employers to continue to receive federal tax credits for unemployment insurance. Without this legislation, employers could pay out another $378 per employee that they currently don’t have to pay the federal government.
Gov. Sean Parnell’s comprehensive crime bill passed, a bill that reinforces penalties on the demand side of sex trafficking, strengthens investigative tools to track down and prosecute offenders, and enacts tougher sentencing provisions.
The legislation expands Alaska’s rape shield law to protect victims after the assault occurred. It also authorizes the court to order GPS tracking devices on perpetrators, and gives the victims of trafficking the ability to qualify for benefits from the Violent Crimes Compensation Board.
Current statutes will be amended to clarify that probation and parole officers may not engage in sexual conduct with a person on probation or parole. The bill prohibits offenders in custody from contacting a victim if ordered by a court not to do so and eliminates the statute of limitations for cases involving child pornography and trafficking.
The bill includes components meant to protect children at home and in the community. In cases where a parent or guardian has committed abuse against a child, or is a registered sex offender, the Office of Children’s Services may be excused from making reunification efforts.
Alaska House Speaker Mike Chenault’s resolution to induce gun manufacturers to build their products in Alaska passed the House and is now awaiting the governor’s signature.
House Joint Resolution 12 is based on a resolution recently introduced in the Montana State House. With a number of states considering the enactment of legislation restricting or prohibiting the possession or manufacturing of certain firearms and accessories, Chenault believes it is imperative the “administration and the Legislature make it known that we would welcome them to our state.”
Alaska’s constitutional and statutory protections for firearm use, possession and manufacturing “makes Alaska an ideal place for firearm and accessory manufacturers to relocate their business to our state,” he said.
The list of the various manufacturers was produced by the National Shooting Sports Association and represents major weapon and accessory manufacturers.
HJR 12 tells Lower 48 gun and firearm accessory manufacturers two things:
Alaska is open for business and will welcome any who choose to follow through on statements on relocation.
The state values and protect the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and have a cultural heritage that aligns well with their businesses.
Chenault is working on another letter to a manufacturer, this one to PTR Industries of Bristol, Conn.
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