The Alaska Legislature wrapped up its 2009 session Sunday and near as I can tell, our elected officials didn't pass very much affecting the commercial fisheries.
Probably the most significant item to make it through was Senate Bill 1, raising the state's minimum wage from $7.15 to $7.25 an hour through this year. Employers thereafter will be required to pay at least 50 cents an hour more than the federal minimum wage.
The federal minimum will go to $7.25 after July 24, so the minimum in Alaska starting next year will be $7.75.
Seafood processors fought a hike in the state minimum.
In a letter to legislators, Joe Plesha of Trident Seafoods Corp. said the Seattle-based processing company employs some 4,000 people in its shore plants and ships, and they all start out at minimum wage with regular raises every six months.
A 50-cent bump, he said, will increase the company's costs by more than $4 million.
"A large increase in costs will make it more difficult for the industry to reinvest in its operations as well as impact the price it is able to pay for the fish delivered to its plants," Plesha wrote.
SB 1 becomes law, of course, only if Gov. Sarah Palin signs it.
Here's a look at what became of a few other pieces of legislation:
• House Bill 20, to expand state loans for energy efficiency upgrades to fishing vessels, passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
• House Bill 207 and Senate Bill 163, to boost insurance claim amounts available to injured or ill fishermen from the state Fishermen's Fund, each had strong committee runs but failed to advance to a floor vote.
• Senate Joint Resolution 22, opposing a commercial fishing association lawsuit the resolution sponsors consider a threat to dipnet fisheries (Deckboss, April 11), passed the Senate but didn't move very far in the House.
By the way, a lot of the fightin' words in the original resolution were dropped from the version that passed the Senate, specifically the reference to the "inordinate and potentially unfair, unethical, and disproportionate influence of the commercial fisheries industries on fisheries management in Alaska."
A resolution carries no weight of law. It's essentially just an opinion or request.
Bills that failed this session aren't dead. Lawmakers work on a two-year cycle, so bills filed this year will remain in play during the 2010 session.
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