This year, ComFish had a notable number of political speakers, including Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott and Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. On Friday, directly after Mallot spoke about Alaska’s fiscal crisis, Sullivan stepped up in front of the audience and gave an overview of some of the legislation he’s most recently worked on.
He began by referring back to commitments he made while in Kodiak during his election campaign, and one of those was to get onto the commerce committee, which he said has an important role in regard to fisheries and coastal communities. But he said all the other senators wanted to be on it too, because the commerce committee encompasses aviation, roads, and anything related to economy.
“I had no idea how to get on the commerce committee. As a matter of fact, I don’t brag about this, but in the weird ranking system of seniority in the U.S. Senate, you’re looking at number 100 out of 100, so I was a little bit worried about my commitment to you guys about being on the commerce committee when committee assignments relate to seniority.”
He said he went to the leader of the senate and explained that commitment. And not only did he get a spot on the commerce committee, he got all his top four committee choices.
“And they fit really nicely with Senator Murkwoski’s committees, where we kind of divide and conquer. As a matter of fact, when I got my committee assignments, she mentioned that a couple of her colleagues came up to her after, saying ‘How do you Alaskans pull this off every time?’ because these are really good committees for our state that I’m on and that she’s on.”
Sullivan said they’ve been looking at structural ways to create more demand for fish and fish products and spoke about last year’s trade promotion authority legislation, which President Obama wanted in order to secure authority from congress to negotiate trade deals. Sullivan said he looked at the bill, which is designed to open markets for different industry groups in America, and said the legislation left fisheries out.
“So, my team and I draft up several paragraphs of language that says, for any future trade agreement, the trade negotiator for the United States has to get access for our fisheries and our fish products for foreign markets and go after the subsidies of foreign fleets that unfairly compete against our fleets.”
He said that legislation passed with his added language.
In the domestic sphere, Sullivan said he and Senator Murkwoski introduced a bill which would require school lunch programs in the United States to only use fish caught in American waters.
“That’s huge to me, and believe it or not there’s loopholes in that program right now that don’t require that and it’s my view that, if we’re gonna be feeding our kids fish, it should be good fish.”
That bill is before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.