All Quiet At The State Capitol
No news is often good news—at least no bad legislation is moving through.
The state budget, and specifically how Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed 4% budget cuts will affect the state, has dominated the Georgia legislative session thus far.
We expected a quiet legislative session in terms of proposed bills that could impact hunting and fishing in Georgia. So far it’s been quiet on all fronts, and not just for sportsmen, as early work and effort by legislators has focused on the budget.
Crossover Day this year is March 12. A bill must pass out of its originating chamber, the House or Senate, by that day to be eligible for consideration in the opposite chamber.
It is looking like sportsmen will be spared from any pain in the budget process. DNR’s leadership and department heads worked to minimize impacts in their proposed cuts, and add-backs by the House to DNR’s proposed budget could further mitigate cuts. The House passed the amended FY 2020 budget last week, which now moves to the Senate for consideration.
No services provided to sportsmen were ever in danger of being cut during this round of budget trimming, as budget reductions were met primarily through positions that fell open due to retirements.
The Governor’s proposed FY 2021 budget includes $20 million from the newly established Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program (GOSP). Georgia voters in 2018 approved the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment, or Amendment 1, which allocates 40% of the state sales tax collected on outdoor sporting goods to fund certain conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the state. The $20 million allocated in the proposed budget represents the 40% in estimated state sales tax collected during 2019.
The first round of grant applications has been approved by the GOSP Board of Trustees, by the Department of Natural Resources Board and by a House Appropriations subcommittee. It will now go before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for approval. Approved projects will then enter into a second round of applications where they will work with DNR on budgets, environmental reviews and other requirements. Funds for projects should be released this summer.
As expected, parks and trails will see a bulk of that grant money, but sportsmen could also see substantial benefits in this first round through two significant land acquisitions projects for Wildlife Management Areas.
Concealed Carry Reciprocity
House Bill 787 would expand the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and their families both within Georgia and in other states.
On Feb. 19, a sub-committee of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee voted to approve HB 787 and pass it on to the full committee.
Georgia gun owners may take for granted that our state, at least for now, has generally reasonable gun laws that align with the Second Amendment of our country’s Constitution. If you travel and have your gun, in some states you could literally go to jail.
HB 787, sponsored by Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), would grant universal recognition to concealed carry permits held by non-Georgia residents issued by any other state. It would also direct the Georgia Attorney General to enter into formal reciprocity agreements with any state that requires a formal agreement to recognize a Georgia Weapons Carry License.
Georgia’s Own Gun-Ban Bill
Georgia’s top office and our state House and Senate are currently controlled by pro Second Amendment majorities, but the margins are not great. If the scales tip toward the progressive gun-ban crowd—and tons of New York money (Mike Bloomberg) will be spent trying to make that happen in Georgia—bills like the The “Georgia Firearms and Weapons Act,” Senate Bill 281, could have a chance in our state. SB 281 would ban many semi-automatic hunting rifles and shotguns.
SB 281 reads in part, “so as to prohibit the possession of automatic and semi-automatic guns; to revise and provide for definitions; to revise the nomenclature for weapons which shoot or are designed to shoot, automatically, more than six shots, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”
Shoal Bass State Sport Fish
House Bill 357 is a carryover from last year that would recognize the shoal bass as the official state riverine sportfish. It is supported by the Georgia Wildlife Federation.
Georgia already has designations for the official state fish, the largemouth bass. The brook trout is the state’s cold water game fish, and redfish is the saltwater game fish.
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