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Georgia Politics

Natural resources legislative update

There are multiple outdoor related bills making their way through the Georgia General Assembly this year. Some are fairly mundane, others seem needless and a few have the potential to be good for the outdoorsmen of the state. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

SB 122 – Makes some adjustments to various hunting season dates. Most notably it extends many of the small game seasons an extra week.

SB 48 – Ensures that the cost you pay for a hunting/fishing/trapping license will remain the same provided you renew your license before it expires.  This passed the Senate on February 9 with a 53-1 vote.

SB 332 – Creates a hunting mentorship program. According to the language in the bill, it will establish and maintain a hunter mentor program that enables experienced hunters to mentor new hunters in safe, ethical, and responsible hunting practices. I reached out to Senator Heath for comment on the bill.

Following are the questions along with Senator Heath’s responses.

  1. What specifically is the bill trying to accomplish that cannot be accomplished under our current law (the apprentice hunter option)?“While the Apprentice Hunting License under current law is beneficial for those who wish to hunt/fish for short periods of time ($5 per day for hunting and fishing, with up to 10 consecutive days purchasable), the Outdoor Passport extends the time for a new hunter/fisherman to explore hunting and fishing for different  game to one full calendar year. Because many of Georgia’s hunting seasons do not overlap, the Outdoor Passport eliminates the need to purchase a new license every day. The Outdoors Passport provides the flexibility that the Apprentice License does not. Additionally, new hunters that purchase the Outdoors Passport and elect to purchase regular licenses the following year will see a reduction in the prices of those licenses, creating an incentive to get back into the outdoors and enjoy one of Georgia’s most time-honored traditions.”

2. The bill mentions a mentor education course. What would this course look like? Who would teach it? What are the costs involved with taking it?

“The bill currently gives the Georgia Department of Natural Resources the flexibility to design a mentor education program to their specifications and will provide more in-depth training than a standard Hunter Education Course. We can expect them to provide training on the various licenses and tagging requirements, in-depth conservation techniques, as well as best practices when out in the field. The Department of Natural Resources will teach and administer the course.

Ultimately, the Outdoor Passport along with the mentor outdoor program geared towards hunting and fishing will hopefully ignite a passion for the outdoors as a lifelong activity, provide a safe and memorable first-time hunting/fishing experience, and teach safe and ethical hunting/fishing practices. The one-on-one mentoring opportunity provides Georgia youth the chance to experience some of Georgia’s most sacred pastimes and enables veteran hunters to pass on their passion for the outdoors. While the Outdoor Passport provides a yearlong flexible license to those who are experiencing hunting and fishing for the first time.  Both in the long term are in the effort to make sure we pass along the importance of hunting and fishing to future generations.”

SB 332 passed the Senate on February 13 with a 56-0 vote.

HB 332 – This bill would dedicate a portion of the current sales and use tax collected on outdoor recreation equipment to land conservation. This is not a new tax, rather, it dedicates 75% of the money already collected to the funding of equipment, land acquisition, clean water supplies, fisheries, etc instead of putting it into the general fund. I emailed Representative Frye a few questions regarding the bill and I was contacted by an intern who stated that Rep. Frye would call me to discuss the bill. At the time of publishing, I have not heard back from Representative Frye. Here are the questions I sent.

  1. Do you expect the bill to pass this year so we will see it on the ballot?
  2. Why does the bill call for 75% of the funds from this tax, instead of 100%?
  3. The estimates I see are $40 million a year. How much is currently being appropriated?

HB 332 is currently listed as “House Withdrawn, Recommitted”.

HB 186 – This bill provides for a statewide extended archery season. As it is now, only 7 metro area counties have an extended archery season. This season will begin the day after the regular firearms season closes and will run to the end of January.

HB 186 is currently still in committee.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the legislation that will affect the game and fish laws next year but it is an overview of the legislation that will have a fairly large impact. If these bills are things you’d like to see passed and implemented contact your Representatives!

 

Photo credit: www.layoverguide.com

Matt Lowe was born in Helena, Montana and grew up in Austell, Ga. He attended South Cobb high school and Chattahoochee Tech. He is an avid outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and 7 children in Dallas, GA. If you’d like to follow more of Matt you can find him on Instagram and Facebook.

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