Commercial Fishing Loans Bill Awaits Action in Alaska Legislature

Legislation currently awaiting action in the Alaska House Finance Committee would raise the total aggregate amount a borrower may hold unpaid from $300,000 to $400,000 on certain commercial fishing loans made by the state.

The measure, sponsored by Representative Daniel Ortiz, an independent legislator from Ketchikan, and co-sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D- Sitka, was approved by the House Special Committee on Fisheries in late February.

The bill refers to total balances outstanding on loans made by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

House Joint Resolution 12, which passed the House Special Committee on Fisheries unanimously in late February, is now awaiting action in House Resources.

The resolution opposes the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of AquaBounty AquaAdvantage genetically engineered salmon. It urges Congress to enact legislation that would require prominently labeling genetically engineered products with the words “genetically modified” on the product’s packaging.

Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, the resolution’s sponsor, said the measure is designed to protect Alaska’s wild salmon and support sustainable fisheries.

Also of interest to Alaska’s fishing industry is House Bill 60, which has been referred to the House Finance Committee, legislation related to motor fuel taxes.

The bill, sponsored by House Rules Committee at the request of Gov. Bill Walker, would in part increase the tax on motor fuel for all watercraft.

Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, chair of the House Special Committee in Fisheries, passed an amendment to the bill to allow commercial fishermen to apply for a 3 cent per gallon rebate. If the bill passes the Legislature, the tax on marine fuel would rise 5 cents this year and the rebate effectively mitigates that increase to 2 cents.

Stutes also notes that language in the bill was tightened to specify that proceeds from the marine fuel tax should be used to support ports and harbors and the state’s Marine Highway System.