401. Marine fish program authorization of appropriations

[no MSFCMA amendment]


Summary:

Authorizes appropriations through FY 2000 under the Fish and Wildlife Act for information collection and analysis, for fisheries conservation and management, and for cooperative programs. Appropriations are also authorized for the Chesapeake Bay office. The Secretary is authorized to provide up to $2 million from previously appropriated funds to a named charity to implement a health care plan for New England fishermen. Section 401(f) provides specific granting authority to the Secretary to make $2 million available from prior appropriated funds to Caritas Christi, the health care network of the Archdiocese of Boston, for the implementation of a health care program for fishermen in New England, if Caritas Christi submits a plan to the Secretary no later than January 1, 1997, and the Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, approves the plan.

Legislative history:

This amendment originated with Senators Kerry and Kennedy and Rep. Barney Frank. Originally to be part of section 312 of the Magnuson Act, it became a free-standing provision so as not to prejudge the Secretary's (expected) decision to take the $2 million from the current Fishing Capacity Reduction Initiative, which was targeted by Congressional staffers as a funding source for the health care plan. Shortly after the President signed S. 39, the Secretary indeed decided to redirect $2 million of FCRI funds to the health care program in the event Caritas Christi submits a timely and approvable plan.

Issues:

One significant issue will be whether the funds should be reprogrammed, with the ancillary reprogramming memo sent to Congress, or distributed pursuant to the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act. DOC/OGC/Admin ruled informally that  401(f) provides independent granting authority, but the funds must be reprogrammed. Recent reprogramming experiences have convinced certain NOAA officials that reprogramming should be avoided. Thus NOAA must decide whether to choose the potentially difficult reprogramming process, or fund the plan under the IFA and justify the linkage between a natural resource disaster and a health care program for New England commercial fishermen. One problem with establishing the program under IFA constraints is the required notice-and-comment period. Using  401(f) authority would allow NOAA to sole-source the grant directly to Caritas Christi, with HHS as the administrative intermediary and monitor.
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