Some state lawmakers want to offer free fishing on birthdays to everyone with a boat and free Sportsman’s Licenses to veterans.
Week 3, Legislative Day 9. The pace of new bills and resolutions increased this week. There are now 179 House Bills, increased from 111 last week, and 159 House Resolutions, up from 48 last week. In the Senate the count is at 86 Senate bills, up from 59 last week, and 128 Senate Resolutions, increased from 27 last week. So far, none are particularly impactful or, more importantly, toxic to cold, clean, fishable water.
Rep. David Knight (R) 130th-Griffin has sponsored HB 158 to allow personal free hunting, fishing and trapping days to registered boat owners on and for the two days after their birthday. Many boat owners are not fishermen or hunters. This may be a no cost way to engage them and ‘set the hook’ in a lifelong interest. The bill sits in the House Game, Fish and Parks Committee with the support of GA DNR Wildlife Resources. We agree.
Sen. David Lucas (D) 26th–Macon has filed SB 75 to extend free Lifetime Sportsman’s Licenses to any veteran who served more than 90 days active duty and received an Honorable, General or Other than Honorable Discharge. Those with Bad Conduct and Dishonorable Discharges would not be eligible. This bill is unlikely to gain traction in the Senate Natural Resources Committee due the enormous cost of the benefit. As a Marine Corps veteran, I certainly appreciate the sentiment but do not expect a free lifetime license and, I believe, most other vets would agree.
Speaker David Ralston’s (R) 7th–Blue Ridge Ethics Bill, HB 142, has caught our attention. The bill expands the definition of lobbyist to anyone representing an organization pro bono and advocating to a public officer or elected official. Lobbyists pay a $320 annual fee. The new definition would categorize members, representing Trout Unlimited before the General Assembly and GA DNR as lobbyists. This aspect of the bill has stirred up quite a bit of controversy and is likely to be modified. The fee for multiple members to represent organizations like Trout Unlimited could be a financial burden.
If you’re a saltwater angler, you may have interest in Rep. Ben Watson’s (R) 166th–Savannah HB 36 which elevates Red Drum (Redfish) to Game Fish status and protection. This bill is on the House Game, Fish and Parks Committee’s agenda for Wednesday, February 6th at 1:30 PM.
See you on the stream.
Kevin McGrath is Georgia Trout Unlimited’s Advocacy Chairman.