House debates wildlife viewing fee bill

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill to charge tourists $15 for a wildlife viewing pass has gained limited support in the state House.

The bill moved from the House Resources Committee to the chamber's Finance Committee following a 6-2 vote by resources committee members. But only two lawmakers -- Anchorage Republican Rep. Cheryll Heinze and Willow Republican Rep. Bev Masek -- recommended it be approved.

Gov. Frank Murkowski introduced the measure to raise $7 million annually in new revenue.

The viewing pass would be required for nonresidents who take organized tours or ride the Alaska Railroad or marine highway. Visitors who buy hunting or fishing licenses would be exempt.

During debate Friday, Juneau Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula proposed an amendment to change the date the fee takes effect from July 1 to Jan. 1. Kerttula said instituting the fee in July would force tour operators who already have sold tours for this summer to pay the fees themselves.

Lawmakers rejected Kerttula's amendment. A Senate version of the wildlife pass bill has yet to have a committee hearing.

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