Each day, in airports across Alaska, thousands of people swipe their cellphones across a scanner and board an airplane. Instead of a paper boarding pass, a smartphone application carries their ticket.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is envisioning something similar for hunting and fishing licenses in the 49th state.
On Monday, the Alaska House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on House Bill 129. Included within HB 129 is a clause that states, “A license in actual possession may be in paper or electronic form.”
“The Department of Fish and Game wishes to create a situation where electronic licenses are allowed,” explained Maj. Bernard Chastain, deputy director of the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, in Monday’s hearing. “That could be on a phone or a device or something similar to that nature.”
The exact details of how the license would be carried and displayed have yet to be determined. It’s also unclear how king salmon stamps, duck stamps or other optional license accessories might be displayed.
HB 129 isn’t limited to electronic licenses: It has several other clauses that deal with a wide range of topics.
Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, has filed a standalone bill that deals with the electronic licensing issue. House Bill 260 has been referred to the House’s fisheries, resources and finance committees but has not yet been heard.
“It’s simply to allow people to have a license and keep it with them more easily,” Saddler said in his office last week.
He said he got the idea after a discussion at the Kenai River Classic fishing tournament.
“It just came around in conversation,” he said. “Now, guides are telling me this would be great.”
Mark Richards is president of the group Resident Hunters of Alaska, and he supports both HB 129 and HB 260.
“We think it’s a great idea,” he said, explaining that it creates redundancy: Someone could carry both a paper copy and an electronic copy.
“Everybody carries a cellphone nowadays,” he said.
HB 129 and HB 260 each face long roads to passage. If approved by their respective committees in the House, they would still have to navigate the Senate, and ADF&G would be in charge of drafting regulations and methods to implement the electronic licensing program.
HB 129 will be heard in the judiciary committee at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. If approved, it next goes to the finance committee.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at email@example.com or call 523-2258.