by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
Outdoors men and women rallied in the State Capitol Rotunda Monday morning (April 23), calling on lawmakers to pass hunting and fishing license fee increases.
One proponent, clutching dollars in upraised fists, begged lawmakers to take the money.
The Republican Senate was expected to again take up the game and fish bill Monday, which contains the license fee increases sought by the Dayton Administration but was also tabled last week on the Senate floor when an amendment containing the fee increases was voted down.
But Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, brushed off the events of the past by saying “last week was last week.”
Ingebrigtsen explained the Senate Republican Caucus was discussing the game and fish bill in caucus this morning.
The chairman, in part, blames the failure of the license fee increase amendment last week on Senate Democrats, arguing Democrats were failing to support their own governor.
Ingebrigtsen this morning again argued the proposed increases do not constitute a tax increase, because if someone doesn’t want to hunt or fish they don’t have to pay a cent.
They’re user-fees, he insisted.
“Well know pretty much by the end of the week whether this will happen,” Ingebrigtsen told the rally of about 60 outdoors people about the fee increases.
House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee Chairman Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, urged those attending the rally to contact their local state representatives and urge support of the fee increases.
McNamara indicated the wash of support for the license fee increases from voters had not yet happened.
Speaking to reporters, McNamara said he could not promise the hunting and fishing license fee increases would pass the Republican House.
“It’s not a guarantee,” he said.
It would be “devastating,” McNamara explained, if the increases do not pass.
That would mean less walleye stocking and other negative impacts, he explained.
The House looks to addressing the hunting and fishing license fee increases in conference committee with the Senate.
McNamara indicated he expected the conference committee to reach speedy agreement on the fee increases — the House hunting and fishing fee increase legislation is carried by Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, and takes a different approach than the Senate.
One feature of the House license fee increase initiative are proposed $5 hunting and fishing licenses for teens.
“You can hunt turkey for five dollars. You can bear for five dollars,” said McNamara.
The idea is to draw young people, many now spending inactive lives in front of computers, into the outdoors, explained McNamara.
Provisions that could cause friction in conference committee, McNamara explained, are the House’s elimination of the state venison donation program — McNamara and others argue the program is a “failure” — and shoot range access for youngsters in gun education programs.
In regard to the proposed early opening of the fishing season, McNamara indicated the proposal was dead — he doubted the House would go for it anymore.
Indeed, it would be unfair to pursue an earlier opener at this late date, argued McNamara.
The general fishing season opens May 12.