Incumbent Republican Rep. Drew Scalzi knows he's in a fight for the party nod in the House District 35 race, but he stands by the fishery bills he sponsored, the effects of which led his opponent, Paul Seaton, to try and unseat him.
Scalzi and Seaton are seasoned commercial fishers who have differed for years over fisheries policy. Scalzi said Seaton has misrepresented his positions on several fisheries bills.
Scalzi said House Bill 206, for instance, does not radically change fish policy when it allows corporate ownership of limited entry permits. He also said it wasn't "his" bill, but rather a compromise that attempted to meet an earlier legislative mandate to develop a limited entry system for the Korean hair crab and weathervane scallop fisheries, both Bering Sea fisheries.
"It's not earth-shattering and destructive," he said, but ensured the fisheries could go forward, adding that he does not expect court challenges to the provisions of House Bill 206.
Scalzi also said the Legislature did not look at 206 and other fisheries bills lightly. House Bills 286 and 288, both of which were aimed at reducing the number of permits and rewarding those who stayed in the fisheries even in lean times, were reviewed by the 29 member organizations of the United Fishermen of Alaska. Scalzi said he worked hard to find a broad consensus of support before he did anything in the Legislature.
"I took 10 bills, drafted them up, took them to UFA," he said. "They reached consensus on five."
Three were passed, but Scalzi held two that were unlikely to move at the end of the session.
"The ones on which we had good support we moved," he said. "These were not 'Scalzi' bills."
Scalzi said he has taken hits from Seaton about his support for House Bill 284, which did not pass, but which was meant to soften the rules regarding conflict of interest. Scalzi said the current rules often force Board of Fish members to abstain from voting on issues on which they have expertise.
A Seaton political flier suggests that Scalzi supports processor quota shares. Scalzi said that's not true.
"That's like saying Don Young is a card-carrying member of the Sierra Club," he said.
"I'm an owner-operated vessel. I pull every fish aboard myself. My crew has an average of 15 years on board. I'm appalled at the thought and the context that this guy is saying I'm for the big guys and he's for the little guys."
Scalzi said he and Seaton have different styles, too. "I'm a compromiser and consensus builder," he said. "The way Paul works, if you don't agree with him, you're in the pocket of the processors, harming the local community."
Scalzi said he would not vote to move the Legislature. He said it would result in an expanded government in the long run and tear out a major part of the economy of Juneau.
He said he worked as a freshman legislator in 2001 to get more funding for education because it was the right thing to do, even though it was not an election year and there was no immediate political advantage.
Scalzi said he supports a unicameral, one-bodied, Legislature.
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