License fee legislation lingering in Lansing
Lansing — The seemingly long, drawn-out legislative process of reducing the number of licenses and raising hunting and fishing license fees should be coming to a head soon.
“As soon as we get back (in session), I expect we’ll run the bill through the House for concurrence and then it’s on to the governor’s desk,” state Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, the bill’s primary sponsor, told Michigan Outdoor News last week. The House will reconvene Sept. 3.
Gov. Rick Snyder announced a fee increase for hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses in his 2014 state budget proposal in February. Since then, the state Legislature has bounced the legislation, House Bill 4668, back and forth, ironing out wrinkles and making amendments.
Both the House and the Senate have passed versions of the bill. The last version was approved by the Senate and sent back to the House after a couple amendments were made. Once the House approves the amendments, which Bumstead expects to happen quickly, the bill will be sent to the governor’s office for final approval.
“I don’t see any big hang-ups,” Bumstead said.
The new fee structure requires a base hunting license – $11 for residents and $151 for nonresidents – which would allow an individual to hunt small game and non-waterfowl migratory birds like woodcock. Additional licenses could then be purchased for other species. For instance, a resident deer license would cost $20, bear $25, turkey $15, and waterfowl $12. Nonresidents would pay the same price for the additional licenses. Fishing licenses would be restructured under the legislation. There would no longer be a restricted license, but the all-species license would be reduced from $28 to $26.
“I’m not hearing anything too negative,” Bumstead said. “The big thing is that we’ve trimmed the number of licenses from over 200 down to 38. We’ve simplified things.
“The original budget the governor laid out called for 45 new conservation officers. This is part of that plan.”
The fee increases would generate $19.7 million for the DNR’s Game and Fish Protection Fund. Most of that money would be specifically earmarked for various programs within the department. For instance, $9 from each waterfowl license sold would be used to purchase, restore, or enhance wetlands and other lands for waterfowl; $9.50 from each regular wild turkey license sold would be used for scientific research, turkey habitat on state lands, national forestland, and private land, hunter surveys, disease testing, and other turkey-management activities.
“We all pretty much came together on where and how the money would be spent,” Bumstead said. “That was a big selling point to sportsmen’s groups. We took testimony for six months and brought in all the sportsmen’s groups during committee hearings and it pretty much sold itself.”
One amendment that has passed both chambers is the addition of a $1 surcharge on the base hunting license, combination hunting and fishing license, and the all-species fishing license. The extra revenue generated from the surcharge would be earmarked for marketing, education, and outreach.
The three amendments the Senate made, which the House must agree on before the legislation moves to the governor’s desk, deal with a strategic plan, land purchases, and vendor fees – issues Bumstead believes will be approved by the House.
Those amendments are:
- Requiring the DNR to complete and post on its website by Nov. 1 a strategic and tactical plan for the Fisheries Division;
- Limiting the amount of license fee money that can be used for land purchases to 0.25 percent of specific license fees; and
- Reducing the $5 rent per week vendors would be charged for licensing equipment to $2.50 per week if that vendor’s license sales are less than the 5-year average.
The legislation also stipulates that the senior license discount of 60 percent is retained for the base license, first deer license, fur harvester license, fall turkey license, spring turkey license, and all-species fishing licenses. The bill also would increases the application fee for lottery hunts – some antlerless deer licenses, bear, turkey, elk, and wolf licenses – from $4 to $5.
The bill removes the requirement of having a small-game license in order to hunt on a bird preserve. The language stipulates, “that an individual may carry, transport, or possess a firearm, slingshot, bow and arrow, or crossbow without a hunting license if they are hunting on a game bird hunting preserve.…”