New fees, fishing opener in MInnesota Game & Fish Bill
St. Paul — Opening the fishing season a week earlier and increasing the costs of fishing and hunting licenses are two proposals that likely will be on the table next week when state lawmakers begin work on a Game and Fish Bill.
The House has passed its bill, which includes opening the fishing season on May 5 – one week earlier than the currently scheduled opener.
The Senate hasn’t yet passed a Game and Fish Bill, but Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, is hopeful a bill will be on the floor of that body Monday, April 16 – the first day back from Easter recess.
He expects the Senate to approve of the increased fees and the earlier opener.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate say they want a Game and Fish Bill sent to the governor that includes the fee increases and the earlier opener. There had been concern that fee increases, in particular, would be part of a larger environment omnibus bill that could face a veto from Gov. Mark Dayton.
The DNR, Dayton, and some Republican lawmakers – including Ingebrigtsen, and Reps. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, and Denny McNamara, R-Hastings – have pushed the fee increases. Without them, the Game and Fish Fund, which pays for much of the state’s fish and wildlife management, wouldn’t be solvent past June of 2013.
Several Senate committees have signed off on the fee increases, and Ingebrigtsen expects the full body to approve them. They face a more difficult road in the House, where they’ve not yet been voted upon.
McNamara said passage in the House will depend on both Republicans and Democrats supporting the increases.
“Some on both sides are not going to be willing to do it,” he said.
But having a provision for an earlier fishing opener and a state wolf hunt this fall could improve the bill’s chances.
The House already has passed language for an earlier fishing opener this year. It states: “The 2012 open season for taking fish by angling shall begin on Saturday, May 5, 2012, for the taking of species that would otherwise begin on May 12, 2012 …”
Ingebrigtsen predicted the Senate would be “hot” to the idea of the earlier opener. He said, though, that he’s heard from resort operators who oppose the idea of opening the season a week early.
“We’re giving them another week of business,” he said. “I guess they’re not prepared for it – that’s the big deal.”
Both the House and Senate also include provisions for a state wolf hunt this fall. Neither allow nonresidents to trap wolves. Both set resident wolf hunting and trapping licenses at $26. The Senate would charge nonresidents $230 to hunt wolves; the House $250.
While both bodies would begin the hunting season beginning on the same day as this year’s firearms deer opener – Saturday, Nov. 3 – there is a key difference. The Senate sets the season to begin that date this year only; the House bill mandates that it begin with the firearms deer opener in future years, too.
The DNR supports the Senate position.
If the House and Senate versions of a Game and Fish Bill are different, which likely will be the case given the House hasn’t considered the fee increases, a conference committee will need to hash out the differences between the two bills. Once that committee agrees to a bill, it would need to go back to the House and Senate floors, receive approval, and then would be sent to Dayton for his signature.