A Good Year Under The Gold Dome

Perdue signs most bills on his desk that matter to sportsmen.

Nick Carter | June 1, 2008

With Gov. Sonny Perdue signing off on almost every bill of interest to Georgia’s sportsmen that made it to his desk, 2008 ended what has been a pretty good two-year session for hunters and fishermen.

HB 89: This gun-rights bill that raised ire in the liberal media for its protections of gun-owner’s rights and its expansion of the right to carry was signed into law May 14. Following relentless petitioning of the governor to sign the bill, his signature is viewed by gun-rights groups as a victory.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica), the law will take effect July 1, 2008, protecting the right of licensed gun owners to carry their firearms in restaurants, state parks, state recreation and historic areas as well as on public transportation. The law does not protect the right to carry at certain public gatherings or where having a weapon is federally prohibited. The bill will also allow gun owners to keep their firearms anywhere in their vehicles, not just in plain view or in the glove compartment, as was previously the law. Several other gun-rights provisions are also included in the bill.

HB 301: Sportsmen fought hard for this anti-dog-fighting bill that includes protections for pet owners and dog hunters. After trumping a Senate-born, anti-dog-fighting bill full of anti-hunter influence, this bill was signed, effective immediately on May 6.

“We’re happy with it. We’re glad we can lay that to rest,” said Reggie Dickey, president of the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation, a main proponent of the bill. “We feel like it’s been a great year for our organization. Not only did we get this bill, we got our dog-collar bill signed, too.”

SB 16: Ironically, this, the “bad” anti-dog-fighting bill replaced by HB 301, was used as a vehicle to put the dog-collar legislation Reggie spoke of on the governor’s desk. This bill, signed on May 12 and effective immediately, makes it illegal for anyone other than the owner to remove a tracking collar from a dog.

HB 990: Gov. Perdue signed the state’s FY 2009 budget May 14 without making line-item vetoes to WRD’s portion of the budget. WRD will receive $37.5 million in state general funds.

A highlight from the budget is $1.4 million for law-enforcement pay raises. A low-light was significant underfunding from a list of WRD needs. The General Assembly did not provide any funding to help offset the rising cost of fuel. Also, only a quarter of the funding requested to update the Law Enforcement Section’s motor-vehicle fleet was allocated, and the $100,000 budgeted did not come out of state funds. Another shortfall came in DNR’s request to fill 15 vacant law-enforcement positions for wildlife areas. The initial figure recommended was $675,000, but that figure was whittled to $450,000. According to Todd Holbrook, WRD assistant director, there is still some discussion about what these positions will be. WRD also requested funds to cover a shortfall in funding for leased WMA land. The amount was reduced to $100,000 from $200,000.

SR 820: It looks like a joint House/Senate study committee will not take a look at DNR law enforcement. By vetoing this resolution May 14, Gov. Perdue halted the attempt to form a study committee, which could have resulted in a significant impact on the structure of DNR law enforcement.

HB 1016: With the signing of this bill on May 6, the DNR commisioner now has the power to prohibit the harvest of egg-bearing blue crabs, known as spongecrabs, from Georgia waters.

HB 1211: This tax-relief bill, signed on May 8, has the potential to impact positively the availability of hunting-lease land because it provides a tax break for landowners who leave their large tracts undeveloped.

HB 239: The designation of water buffalo and Australian sugar gliders as livestock may not matter to most sportsmen, but this bill, signed May 13, also provides a small protection for landowners. It makes it so that property owners can’t be held liable for wildlife that traverses the landowner’s property and enters a public roadway.

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