March 18, 2013 (Issue 3)
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Bycatch be Bygone
I love halibut. You love halibut. We all love halibut — including sport, charter, commercial, and subsistence users, who all sometimes quarrel over who gets to catch how much halibut. Sometimes voices are raised and sharp words exchanged, but it's because we all love halibut.
All this while, the Gulf of Alaska trawl fishery has been catching and wasting literally millions of pounds of halibut every year. Gulf of Alaska halibut bycatch is one of the saddest stories in Alaska fisheries management. Further, halibut are migratory and many of the halibut caught and killed in Gulf of Alaska trawls are small juveniles that would later migrate to Southeast.
For a sobering sense of scale: The combined annual catch of the sport, subsistence, charter, and commercial sectors in Southeast is approximately 4.7 million pounds. The Gulf of Alaska trawl fishery catches (and discards) approximately 4.7 million pounds of halibut as bycatch.
It's hard to muster an appetite for even one of my dad's halibut steaks after considering those kind of numbers. And just as halibut bycatch makes our stomachs turn, Chinook bycatch has the same effect for those in Southcentral and Western Alaska.
Fortunately, the House Committee on Fisheries, on which I sit, is doing something about it. The trawl fisheries are federally managed, but our committee, as a whole, just last week released a resolution requesting that the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (which manages the trawl fisheries) reduce bycatch and require more oversight in the form of observers.
We hope they will listen.
Wrath of the Wet Noodle
My Chief of Staff Tully McLoughlin has to savagely beat me with a wet noodle to write this newsletter. It's welcome abuse! The newsletter is important.
Fortunately, we churn out content on a much more regular, more-than-daily frequency: facebook.com/repjonathankreisstomkins. For fast-moving bills and issues (and for colorful nonpolitical dispatches from the Capitol), it's the best outlet for information.
|If I ever have trouble making up my mind, I’ll be glad I had that “Maybe” button installed in my desk.
$16,000 Pay Raise
I'm often asked whether the job has stacked up to my expectations. The question sometimes has a prosecutorial undertone. I'm an idealist and I ran as an idealist. Surely I've been broken by the cold, unyielding realities of the legislative process?
A few aspects of the legislature have inspired a raised eyebrow, however. Legislative pay is among them.
Legislators are paid handsomely for a theoretically (although unrealistically) seasonal job. The annual salary is a flat $50,400. Generous per diem adds another $20,000 to $25,000 a year. Finally, office accounts add to the bottom line — only if a legislator so chooses.
Office accounts?! Surely office account money is used for, like, office stuff, right? You know, Scotch tape, mechanical pencil lead, and jaws-of-death staple-removers.
Wrong. Office accounts should be used for office stuff. Incredibly, office accounts may also be taken as personal income.
Senators get $20,000 a year for their office account. Representatives get $16,000. Different legislators make different choices: some bank their whole office account as income; some spend every spare cent on accountable office expenses; some do something in between.
My office will spend every cent on Scotch tape and mechanical pencil lead and jaws-of-death staple-removers (among other office expenditures). I will not take any of the $16,000 as personal income.
Moreover, I hope the legislature as a whole reconsiders the messy legalities of office accounts. Either we give ourselves an explicit pay raise (which I would not support), or we make office accounts fully accountable. The idealist in me — still invigorated, even after 63 days in the legislature — would be grateful for the clarification, and I'd like to think the public would as well.
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins
State Capitol, Room 426
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