Representative Louise Stutes, (R) Kodiak Credit: Cordova Times
Tuesday begins the 31st Alaska legislative session in Juneau and at least two fish bills will resurface. A priority is resolving the conflict of interest issue for the state Board of Fisheries – House Bill 35.
“You can see it at every Board of Fisheries meeting you go to. When you have a board member who has an expertise in a certain area and is conflicted out and can’t even express his knowledge to other board members, what’s the point of having him on the board. So this bill will allow them to participate in the conversation but will not allow them to vote on the issue.”
Louise Stutes is head of the House fisheries committee and represents Kodiak, Cordova, Yakutat and several small communities. She says the board conflict issue has been at the forefront for 14 years and this is the closest lawmakers have come to resolving it.
Another Stutes sponsored measure coming up – House bill 185 – is the Derelict Vessel Act which requires all boats over 24 feet to be registered in person with the Department of Motor Vehicles, including those already documented with the Coast Guard.
The 2018 law was sponsored by Senator Peter Micciche of Soldotna at the behest of the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators as a way to track ownership of abandoned boats.
The bill had a rough roll out because almost no one knew about it. And Stutes claims it’s an unnecessary duplication of services.
“That’s kind of a double whammy for individuals who already have registered through the CFEC. It’s a duplication of information that you’d be getting a sticker from the DMV. So I have a bill that would exempt any boat that is registered with the CFEC and it’s going to have an effective date of January 1, 2020. You know, it’s not cheap to get your CFEC permit and to essentially double dip. The idea is not to create additional revenue for the state, the idea is to create a data base so they have access to ownership to vessels that are in Alaska waters.”
Stutes says the top priority is to maintain a robust Fish and Game budget.
“When you cut the fish and game budget, you’re cutting revenue to the state.”
Overall, Stutes says she’s optimistic about the 2020 legislative session.
“I’m optimistic. I feel like the people of AK have sent a message to the administration and I’m hoping the administration will be a little more willing to interact with the legislature. That was a big stumbling block last year – we did not have much communication between the administration and the legislature. And you just don’t get anything done when you have such a divided body. So I’m optimistic that we can come together and protect Alaskans as a unit.”