Hunting, fishing for more revenue — Bill calls for increasing Fish and Game fees

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

A bill working its way through the Legislature would give the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s budget more bucks for the bang. House Bill 137 would increase hunting, fishing and trapping fees across the board.

In testimony so far, some have quibbled with details of the bill, and a few, such as Nick Steen, of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, have opposed the increases overall.

“To add a tax such as this, 15 to 20 percent, is a very onerous situation, particularly in this economy,” Steen said.

But the majority of testimony — from a wide array of hunting and fishing groups, as well as individuals — has been in favor of the increases.

For residents, fee increases would be just a few bucks in most cases. A sport fishing, hunting or trapping license would increase $5, and a combination hunting, trapping and sport fishing license would go from $53 to $60. For nonresidents, fees would increase anywhere from $5 to $100 or more for one-day licenses up to big game harvest tags.

The money would go to the Fish and Game fund, which helps cover the department’s costs in managing the state’s fish and wildlife, such as doing research, stock surveys, habitat assessments and education programs. Currently, a good chunk of Fish and Game’s state funding comes from the general fund, which is in jeopardy as the Legislature attempts to trim the state budget in the face of a looming fiscal deficit.

“The general fund being so obviously vulnerable right now, it means that a substantial wedge out of the pie that makes up those divisions’ budget could go away in large proportion pretty quickly here. … So, all in all, with the general funds diminishing, there’s need to offset that to as great a degree as possible with asking residents to pay more,” said Matt Robus, a retired director of Fish and Game’s wildlife division, testifying to the House Resources committee on March 25.

If anything, the fee increases being proposed in HB 137 are too low, Robus said. The last time fees were increased was in 1993. Just adjusting for inflation, a $25 hunting license in 1993 would cost $41 today, rather than the $30 being proposed in the bill.

“There is a great need for funding those divisions, and with general funds having been given over the last couple of decades and about to be taken away, inflation alone has put the divisions in quite a sensitive spot,” Robus said.

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E-cigs spark debate — Committee hears discussion of e-cigarettes in workplace smoking ban

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

As a bill that would prohibit smoking in workplaces statewide makes its way through the Legislature, the question of e-cigarettes has become a burning topic.

Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Kenai Sen. Peter Micciche, had a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Thursday.

Half of Alaska already is covered by local smoke-free laws. The bill would extend similar, “take-it-outside coverage,” as Micciche calls it, to rest of the state, which is mostly the unincorporated areas outside of city jurisdiction.

“All this bill does is it asks smokers to take it outside while they’re at work,” Micciche said. “It’s just respect for their neighbor’s right to breathe clean air. This is not about folks that choose to smoke. If they choose to smoke, they have every right to continue to do that. We just ask them to not affect the rights of their friends at work.”

Micciche noted that more than 860 Alaskan businesses and organizations and hundreds more individuals have signed on in support of the bill, and a 2012 Dittman survey found that 82 percent of Alaskans agree that workers should be protected from second-hand smoke.

Micciche also acknowledged that the bill has drawn opposition, and that nearly all the hundreds of letters he’s received against the bill have specifically resisted including vaping and e-cigarettes in the smoking ban.

Chuck Kopp, a staffer for Micciche, said that e-cigarettes are included in the bill because of their still-ambiguous nature. The science is maturing regarding their possible health impacts. And while some have been shown to not negatively impact others with second-hand smoke, not all e-cigs are created equal.

“There are studies that show that because of the unregulated nature of the market, depending on the tool that is being used, you can have a significant amount of toxins, and ultrafine medical particles, volatile compounds and other carcinogens that become part of the vaping or aerosolized air. The biggest problem is that the FDA has not assumed regulation of them and there are over 470 different brands,” Kopp said.

Anchorage Sen. Lesil McGuire said that she’s heard from constituents who want e-cigarettes to be left alone.

“There have been some pretty personal emails from folks in my community that were at one point addicted to smoking nicotine through tobacco use and have found reprieve smoking e-cigarettes and feel it’s a health benefit to them and the people around them,” McGuire said.

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Seaton introduces state income tax bill

By Chelsea Alward

Homer Tribune

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, introduced a bill last week that would impose an income tax on residents and nonresidents deriving an income source from within the state of Alaska.

Proposed as a diversification strategy, Seaton said that a reduction of the state budget and program cuts alone could not fill the deficit gap, and that a state income tax could lend what he estimates to be a $600 million helping hand.

According to the sponsor statement released April 2, the proposed income tax is equal to 15 percent of the taxpayer’s total federal income tax, and 10 percent of long-term capital gains.

The tax on capital gains also allows for an alternative percentage calculation, by taking the difference between the taxpayer’s federal income tax rate on ordinary income and the taxpayer’s federal tax rate on long-term capital gains. Alaskans would pay on the lesser of the two options.

“The reason for (the long-term capital gain tax) is, currently in the federal tax code, if you make your money by investment, you are taxed at a much lower rate than someone that is employed or works with their hands,” Seaton said. “If people are making their income off of capital gains rather than an ordinary income, they should pay substantially similar (tax) rates.”

In other words, it wouldn’t matter how income is made when it comes to statewide taxes on money earned. The bill would capture both categories of income, and those benefiting inside and outside of Alaska from the state economy.

“The thought is that taxes should be more equitable between earned income and investment income,” Seaton said. “If you earn money from any source, you need to pay your fair share.”

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View from Out West: Creativity not a crime — Police blotter author walks line between facts, fanciful style

Photo by Clark Fair. Sgt. Jennifer Shockley of the Unalaska Police Department has gained notoriety for her notoriously creative take on the community police blotter.

Photo by Clark Fair. Sgt. Jennifer Shockley of the Unalaska Police Department has gained notoriety for her notoriously creative take on the community police blotter.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

I’ve been inspired recently by writings from an unusual source — Sgt. Jennifer Shockley of the Unalaska Police Department. Her brief, inventive and colorful retellings of the activities of fellow officers appear in publications throughout Alaska, they are followed online by readers sprinkled throughout the world, and they have become one of my weekly highlights.

I must also admit to a bit of envy.

One of my jobs as a cub reporter for the Peninsula Clarion in the early 1980s was straightforward:

  1. Walk over to the Kenai police and fire departments and pick up the stack of photocopied activity reports.
  2. Add them to the reports that a colleague had collected in Soldotna.
  3. If anything looks interesting enough to turn into a story, make some calls and flesh out the details for a full story. Otherwise, include the rest in a series of terse encapsulations, usually one to three sentences each, to run in a single column down one of the local news pages.

More often than not, those public safety briefs might look something like this:

At 12:04 a.m. Thursday, Kenai Police responded to a report of a disturbance in Ordinary Subdivision. Investigation resulted in Jane Doe, 34, being removed from the residence and taken into protective custody. At the jail, Doe became combative with officers, was charged with disorderly conduct and held at the jail pending arraignment.

This brief is mildly interesting and has potential, but it lacks the precision and detail that could bring it to life, even in one to three sentences.

A more effective brief might be something like this:

At 3:49 a.m. Monday, Soldotna Police observed a running vehicle stuck in a snowbank at the south end of the Safeway parking lot. The driver, in attempting to get the rear tires unstuck, had worn them down to the steel belts. Investigation resulted in the arrest of Joe Blow, 21, who had a breath alcohol content of .221 and was held at the jail pending arraignment.

Although plenty is left unsaid, enough information is provided for readers to draw their own conclusions and perhaps get a chuckle at the same time.

That is why I enjoy Sgt. Shockley’s renditions, such as this:

“Officer watched three extremely intoxicated and giggling louts urinate on the road, on themselves, on one another, and on a taxi in front of the Harbor View Bar. The wet-legged men abashedly explained to the admonishing officer they had been kicked out of the bar before having an opportunity to use the restroom there.”

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Night Lights herald spring

Graphic courtesy of Andy Veh

Graphic courtesy of Andy Veh

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Days are getting longer and nights are getting shorter. Thus, this might be my last column before fall, unless a special or unexpected astronomical event were to happen during the summer.

The winter constellations Orion, Gemini, Taurus, Canis Major and Auriga with all their bright stars are now visible in the west, setting during the late evening, and Leo with its bright star Regulus is speeding across the sky. I perceive Leo as the harbinger of spring — when it appears in the east, winter’s end will soon be here, and when it reaches the western horizon, flowers are in full bloom and deciduous plants will have regained their leaves. In addition, the summer triangle comprised of the bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair, reappears in the northeast.

Shortly after sunset, during late dusk, start looking toward the northwest horizon and you should see reddish Mars quite close to the horizon. Around April 19 it should get really interesting as Mercury joins Mars, and the very crescent moon is nearby. Mars and Mercury will be really close April 21. While Mars gets harder to spot after that, Mercury should get easier to see, as it appears higher in the northwest at the end of the month.

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Plugged In: ‘W’ is for weighty photographers in history

Illustration 1 — “The Critic (Opening Night at the Opera)” by Weegee.

Illustration 1 — “The Critic (Opening Night at the Opera)” by Weegee.

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

We’ll conclude our admittedly idiosyncratic discussion of influential photographers with the “Ws,” a group that veers between the gritty and the sublime.

  • Weegee makes nearly everyone’s list of street-smart documentary photographers who somehow transcend the grittiness of daily urban life to create lasting images that speak volumes, both as journalism and as art. Weegee was not his real name, but rather a pseudonym stamped on his freelance news photos. Weegee tended to specialize in spectacular crime scene images — he had one of the first police band scanners and was so familiar among the New York Police Department that many rookies thought he was connected with the NYPD. One of his most famous photographs, though, is “The Critic (Opening Night at the Opera),” a public domain copy of which is this week’s Illustration 1. That starkly flash-lit photo shows two smug and overdressed women passing between some modestly dressed working people. The photo was taken during the desperate days of 1943 when World War II still hung in the balance. When questioned about their gaudy display, the women had just commented that they were sacrificing to help wartime morale by “wearing last year’s jewelry.” Weegee’s work is all of a piece with 1940s “Film Noir,” like Humphrey Bogart’s “The Maltese Falcon.”

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Sockeye stamp of funding approval? New fishing fee proposed to help Kenai, Kasilof rivers

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

A suggestion before the Legislature to institute a special fee for sport and personal-use sockeye salmon fishing in Alaska is getting a stamp of approval from Kenai-area constituents.

The House Resources Committee heard testimony March 25 on a measure to create a sockeye fishing stamp during discussion of House Bill 137, which would raise the state’s hunting, fishing and trapping fees across the board.

The idea is for a new sockeye salmon stamp to be patterned after the king salmon stamp already in use in Alaska. Anglers wanting to harvest sockeyes through sportfishing or personal-use fishing would need to purchase a sockeye stamp along with their fishing license.

Under the fee structure currently in effect, a sockeye stamp — just like a king stamp — would cost $10 for Alaska residents. For nonresidents, the cost would be $10 for a one-day stamp, $20 for a three-day stamp, $30 for a 14-day stamp and $100 for an annual tag.

If HB 137 is adopted, those fees would increase to $15 for a resident stamp, and range from $15 to $150 for nonresident stamps.

The extra money raised from sockeye stamps would go to help shoulder the burden of the increasing level of participation in the popular sockeye salmon fisheries in the state, particularly in the Copper, Kasilof and Kenai rivers.

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