SACRAMENTO — Despite the largest protests ever seen against a bill in the Sacramento State Capitol, every factual argument that pointed in the other direction, and the direct loss of revenue that will result from it, the Assembly Appropriations Committee today passed SB 1221 (Lieu-D), the bill that would ban the hunting of bears with dog.
Every Democrat voted to pass the bill, and every Republican (who were all wearing orange "No on SB 1221" buttons) voted against it. But it was passed by the majority of Democrats.
There were amendments attached to the bill that were not released at the time of passage, but they supposedly included allowances for using dogs to chase bears for depredation, use by the DFG and for research. The details won't be available until next week, according to Bill Gaines, President of California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA) who was in attendance and shared the information with WON.
Most striking, and unrealistic, was that the Committee agreed to also include amendments that would authorize the Fish and Game Commission to increase the cost of bear tags to supposedly try to "cover" the loss of bear tag sales for those who hunt bears with dogs and will no longer buy tags. Cost of a bear tag is currently $43.46, and it is highly unlikely that a deer hunter hoping for an incidental chance at a bear is going to pay $80 or $100 for a tag, so the lost revenue stream for the DFG is expected to approach $500,000, to say nothing about impact on the communities that support bear hunting.
Earlier this summer, in an effort to pass the bill out of Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, the author of the bill, Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), had promised to run a separate “companion” bill with amendments. The “second” bill was to provide amendments which would deal with depredation and research concerns, and also authorize the Commission to “lift” the ban via 4/5ths vote, along with a number of restrictions that would make it nearly impossible to do so. Instead of a separate bill, however, the Assembly Appropriations Committee has wrapped it into SB 1221, which means it needs to go back to the Senate for concurrence.
Now, SB 1221 goes to the Assembly floor for a full vote, and passage is likely in the Democratically-controlled house. Then, it needs to go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote, where there is a "chance" that it might be shelved, but that's a long shot unless some of the swing Democrats can be brought along. Then, the bill goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signature before it can become law. The bill needs to get to Gov. Brown's desk by Aug. 31.
Those who want proper wildlife management left in the hands of the DFG and the Fish and Game Commission, and not handed over to non-hunting politicians, need to keep the pressure on both houses, and if that fails, to put pressure on Gov. Brown to not sign this onerous bill. This is a battle, basically, between proper wildlife management under CEQA and the law, and the animal-rights, anti-hunting extremists.
Should SB 1221 be signed, it would become law next year, allowing one final year of hunting bears with hounds in California, and the last year that there would be any meaningful control measures on the burgeoning bear population in California.