WON LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
By Bill Karr/WON Staff Writer
GOVERNOR SIGNS AB 2376, Strategic Vision for DFG, F & G Commission…and more
SACRAMENTO— Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 2376 into law this past week, beginning the task of taking a new look at how best to re-organize the California Department of Fish and Game, and the California Fish and Game Commission, if at all.
In it's first draft, AB 2376, completely left California sportsmen and women out of the process, leading many to think that the bill would be a re-play of the Marine Life Protection Act that is currently being forced through without consideration of any public input.
But that was exactly what prompted California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA) to take action.
"Sportsmen didn't even have a seat at the advisory table," said Jason Rhine, Director of Advocacy for the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA). "Even the 'use and benefit' of state citizens was left out. COHA immediately requested that the bill be amended to accurately state DFG's mission and require the Blue Ribbon Citizen Task Force to include “seats at the table” for recreational fishing, hunting and commercial interests.
COHA, in fact, didn't take a position on the legislation until the end of Session, when it determined that sportsmen and women had a fair voice in making recommendations.
The bill itself is described in the Digest thusly: "This bill requires the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency to convene a committee to develop and submit to the governor and legislature, a strategic vision for the DFG and the F & G Commission." That's it.
AB 2376 creates two committees, which come up with their best recommendations to put forth to the Governor, and the Legislature.
"That's it," said Rhine. "There is no mandate to take action…no requirement. This bill is only set up to make recommendations."
One committee will be seated by the Natural Resources Agency Secretary, who will convene a group made up of bureaucrats, such as the head of the DFG, President of the Fish and Game Commission, the Natural Resources Secretary, etc. and other state bureaucrats. Then, that committee is required to form another committee of what they term as a "Blue Ribbon Citizen Task Force" made up of fishing and hunting interests, landowners, non-profits and other entities. The California Outdoor Heritage Alliance will make every effort to be at the table to represent California’s sportsmen and women.
To help put fears at rest, Rhine said that "Unlike the MLPA, this bill does nothing except require a study, and to send a report to the Governor and Legislator, on how best they think the DFG and F & G Commission can be streamlined."
Harman Hunting Tag Fee bill becomes law
SACRAMENTO – California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed Senate Bill 1058 to prevent hunter generated revenues from being misused for non-game or non-hunting purposes. The measure was authored by Senator Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) and sponsored by the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA).
"This much-needed law will ensure accountability and transparency over the state's use of hunter-generated dollars," stated Mark Hennelly, Vice President of COHA. The bill's approval will annually reallocate an estimated $3.6 million of hunter-generated dollars back to their intended game conservation and hunting related uses.
Since the 1980's--in an effort to address budget shortfalls and unfunded mandates in other areas--the state has improperly redirected big game tag and upland bird stamp revenues.
Loopholes in state law allowed for a significant portion of deer tag funds and all bear tag monies to be used for non-game purposes, while a large percentage of pig tag funds simply remained unspent or were redirected. According to the state's own data from 2006, only 62% of deer tag revenue was actually used for deer-related projects. Similarly, only 64% of wild pig tag money and 48% of wild sheep auction tag money was used for related conservation work.
Under COHA-sponsored SB 1058, state law will now require that all user fee revenues generated from bear, elk, wild sheep, antelope, wild pig, deer and upland game bird stamps and tags be used for big game and upland bird conservation and public hunting purposes. Combined, these revenues total roughly $11 million dollars each year.
In addition, the measure requires that the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) consult with, and seek input from, hunting-related organizations on proposed projects before tag and stamp funds can be expended.
The new law also consolidates existing big game species fiscal accounts into a single account, which will improve efficiency in the use of tag funds and give DFG greater flexibility to benefit all big game species.
For more than three years, COHA worked with its sporting allies and COHA member organizations - including the California Deer Association, Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, California Houndsmen for Conservation, CA Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, National Wild Turkey Federation and California Waterfowl - to pass this legislation in order to safeguard hunters' dollars.
SB 1058 was a reintroduction of Harman’s Senate Bill 589 last year, which was vetoed by the Governor. Senate Bill 1058 addressed the concerns raised by the Administration and was signed into law on September 28.