As the first session of the 23rd Legislature heads into its final month, bills on an array of subjects proffered by lawmakers from the Kenai Peninsula are winding their way through the legislative process.
Subjects include processor quota shares, adding land to the Kenai River Special Management Area, property tax exemptions, gun-ownership rights, and a new name for the state courthouse in Kenai.
n House Joint Resolution 25, proposed by Reps. Paul Seaton of Homer and Mike Chenault of Nikiski lends support for Alaska's independent commercial fishers and Alaska's fish processing industry and opposes establishment of processor quota shares.
Congress is considering legislation to legalize a processor quota plan for the Bering Sea crab fisheries that would require fishers sell at least 90 percent of their catch to designated seafood processors, a move proposed by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.
The council, which has been studying the issues surrounding the Bering Sea crab fisheries for several years, has said the move would improve economic conditions in all sectors of the crab industry and increase safety in the fisheries. Biological benefits also would be realized, the council said in a report to Congress. The council also said a safeguard measure in the proposed allocation program would protect the various interests of those involved.
The House resolution, however, says processor quota shares would reduce or eliminate competition among processors, limiting fishers' marketing options and would place processors not granted quota shares at a "serious competitive disadvantage."
The Alaska Marine Conserv-ation Council says allocation of market shares are forbidden by federal law in other industries. If implemented, there would be no effective limit on how much quota share one corporation could control. The council warned that of "tremendous impact" if such quotas also are one day applied to salmon and ground fish. A recent press release from the council applauded the proposed resolution.
"If passed, this resolution will support a growing citizen rebellion against corporate control over future fisheries," the council said.
The House Special Committee on Fisheries held hearings on the resolution Wednesday.
Dorothy Childers, director of the conservation council, said the question whether Congress should legalize processor shares should not become a processor versus fisher battle. The two sectors are mutually dependent, she said.
"We strongly believe that having the government allocate market share in the form of processor quota will create a kind of a cartel," Childers told the committee. "It will squelch innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities and ultimately exert an unacceptable degree of control over Alaska's fishing families and over the fishery managers themselves."
n Senate Bill 190, introduced by Sen. Tom Wagoner, of Kenai, would further the implementation of the Kenai River Comprehensive Management Plan by adding about 485 acres of state-owned land and water between Kenai and Soldotna to the Kenai River Special Management Area. The bill is the same as one that emerged from the Senate Resources Committee last year but died with the end of the 22nd Legislature.
It would leave open the mineral estate within the state-owned properties to oil and gas leasing.
One specific change to existing law incorporated in SB 190 would change the makeup of the management area's advisory board. Currently, appointees include representatives of user groups, resident property owners, municipalities, agencies of the state and federal governments and other interest groups. SB 190 would eliminate reference to "agencies of the state and federal governments" and specifically ban the inclusion of representatives of state or federal government, including employees or elected officials.
n A proposal to increase the $10,000 property tax exemption on primary residences now allowed by state law and enacted by municipalities such as the Kenai Peninsula Borough continues to draw attention.
Earlier this week, Sen. Tom Wagoner said he was considering an amendment to his Senate Bill 136 that would lower the proposed tax exemption from $50,000 to $25,000 if that would make it more palatable to peninsula cities, which currently do not extend the exemption within their own tax structures.
Some officials with borough cities have suggested they might be forced to enact the exemption to keep homebuyers from heading to more rural areas in search of lower property taxes. Doing that, those officials said, might force cities to raise commercial property taxes to make up for lost revenues.
In a press release Wednesday, Wagoner reiterated that the exemption is optional and neither the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assem-bly nor the city councils are compelled to enact it. He said concerns about people moving out of a city to take advantage of the exemption miss the point, and suggested that opponents' arguments that upping the exemption would shift the burden to commercial properties is "an apparent attempt to scare businesses."
n Meanwhile, House Bill 241, offered earlier this month by Rep. Mike Chenault, would limit the exemptions scope. While allowing municipalities to exclude up to $50,000 in property value from property taxation, an amendment in the bill specifically disallows extension of the exemption to taxes raised by service areas for special services. In other words, Homer could extend the exemption, but South Peninsula Hospital Service Area could not do likewise to their taxes.
In that case, Homer would tax $50,000 of a $100,000 home, but the service area would tax the full $100,000.
n House Bill 241, currently before the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee, also would permit a municipality to exempt from taxes up to $20,000 in value of the residence of a person providing state-certified volunteer firefighting or emergency medical services.
n Senate Joint Resolution 5, a measure calling on President George W. Bush and Congress to ensure that federal agencies do not retain records gathered through the federal Brady Handgun Bill instant firearms check system relating to lawful purchase or ownership, has passed the Senate. A committee substitute now is in the House Judiciary Committee.
The Brady Bill requires that when a call for a system check shows a person may lawfully own a gun, all records with respect to the call be destroyed. According to the resolution, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has indicated its intent to keep such records in its data banks.
n The bipartisan Senate Bill 189, sponsored by Wagoner and several others, would name the state courthouse in Kenai for the late Jonathan H. Link, who died March 25 after a short illness.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.