Proposals Of Concern Appear Dead As 2023 Georgia Legislative Session Nears End
GON Staff | March 28, 2023
Often, no news is good news.
That’s particularly true when it comes to the Georgia legislative session in Atlanta where state representatives and senators convene to make new laws. As this article is being written on Monday morning, March 27, the 2023 Georgia legislative session is scheduled to end at midnight on Wednesday, March 29 with Sine Die—a fancy way of saying legislators adjourn for the year.
A lot can happen in two days, but GON’s sources at the capitol say they do not foresee any late action that would affect sportsmen. Two pieces of proposed legislation had our attention this year, and both appear dead in the water for now.
There is a proposed law that would create a new director-level position within DNR for someone granted the power and duty to increase outdoor recreation in the state. House Bill 314 and a Senate companion bill would establish a new position in DNR called Director of Outdoor Recreation.
What’s not to like about outdoor recreation and promoting more of it in Georgia? The concern from GON with this proposed new position is that DNR might drift farther from what we still see as its core mission of wildlife conservation and promoting and managing hunting and fishing in the state.
DNR already manages ‘outdoor recreation’ through existing DNR divisions such as Wildlife Resources and State Parks, and these divisions have existing Directors. They are doing a great job of managing hunting and fishing through WRD, and since hunting and fishing are already promoted and managed effectively, the need for a new director of ‘outdoor recreation’ must mean powers that be want to promote other types of recreation—biking, hiking, etc. However, visit Charlie Elliott, or spend a day at a Public Fishing Area or at any state park. You will see that collectively WRD, Parks and the whole of DNR are already providing ample public access and opportunity for camping, hiking and biking, water access, horseback riding and other types of outdoor recreation.
The push for a new law to create a new Director of Outdoor Recreation within DNR comes from environmental groups and the lobbyists of a large nationwide company that sells hiking and camping gear. The Georgia Conservancy said it “strongly supports” legislation to create the new director.
In addition to the general question of why DNR would need this, the legislation says nothing about how a director would be paid and whether it would lead to a new DNR division. And the biggest question for sportsmen—would this new director and potential DNR division influence how WMAs and PFAs are managed in terms of outdoor recreation? Specifically, could it lead to a drift away from serving hunters and fishermen—even on acreage that we purchased through license sales?
While dead in the water this legislative session, expect the issue of creating a new DNR Director of Outdoor Recreation to come up again next year.
House Bill 421—Authorize Reasonable Limitation On Discharge Of Bows Within A Political Subdivision:
Legislation that could allow cities and counties to ban the discharge of bows and crossbows—which would ban archery hunting—did not make it out of committee. Currently, cities and counties do not have the legal authority to ban hunting—they can only pass firearms discharge ordinances that ban the firing of guns. HB 421 would add archery equipment to those discharge prohibition powers for municipal governments.
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