WRD Eyes Increase For Non-resident License Fees

Expected legislation would increase Georgia's license fees for out-of-state sportsmen. Gun-control and budget issues also hot items as legislative session begins.

Daryl Kirby | February 7, 2009

State senators and representatives from across the state are at the capitol for the 2009 legislative session, and that means sportsmen should be on the watch for bills that could affect hunting and fishing.

Budget cuts promise to take center stage this year. GON will keep sportsmen updated as WRD’s budget evolves during the legislative session. Turn to the editorial on page 112 for more on budget issues. Gun-control efforts and our fight against them should also be hot topics. SB 12, which would require serial numbers on ammo, was discussed last month in GON, and more on it can be found on page 28.

With the legislative session just beginning, the talk is more about bills expected to be introduced, including legislation that would increase the fees for non-resident hunters and fishermen who come to Georgia. The new fees being proposed weren’t available at presstime, but the increases would vary based on the type of license and would generate about $2.3 million annually.

“Basically, we looked at what we have to offer and what other states would charge Georgians for a similar experience,” said Todd Holbrook, WRD assistant director.

“Look at deer hunting in Georgia. You ask, ‘How does Georgia rate as a deer-hunting destination?’ We’re the top one or two state in the Deep South. Yet, our prices were fifth among the Deep South states,” he said.

Currently, a non-resident can fish in Georgia for about $34, while it costs about $94 in Florida, $80 in Tennessee and $71 in South Carolina, he said.

“We aren’t recommending that we stick it to the non-residents. Just put us in line with other states,” he said.

The same legislation is expected to include language to do away with the $2.75 service charge on sportsmen when they buy a hunting or fishing license. The charge was added when DNR contracted with Central Bank in Missouri for license sales. Sportsmen who renew a license before it expires would not have to pay the $2.75 service charge.

Another bill that is expected would lower the blood-alcohol minimum for hunting under the influence and boating under the influence. Currently, a hunter or boater must have a blood-alcohol level of 1.0 to be charged; however, the minimum for driving a vehicle is 0.8. Col. Terry West of WRD Law Enforcement supports the change.

Col. West said there has also been talk about a bill to establish nighttime speed limits on waterways, which raises serious concerns, including the need for training and equipment to run radar.

“My main concern is that if you have a law like that, there’s a public expectation that somebody’s out there enforcing it. I have fewer officers per capita than any other southeastern state right now. Georgia is already the least-covered state in the Southeast.”

Reggie Dickey, executive director of the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation (GHFF), said sportsmen should keep their eyes out for animal-rights sponsored legislation this year.

“HSUS is coming out with another animal-fighting act that would cover any closed pen — that would ban training rabbit dogs in a pen, fox hunting, all of it,” Dickey said. “They’re also looking at a ‘puppy lemon law,’ which is really just an anti-breeding bill.”

GHFF is supporting two bills. One would do away with restrictions on lights for coon hunters, and the other would require a permit for administering a deer contraceptive that can be fired through a rifle and delivered to deer. Deer contraceptives are not yet used very often and are not effective on free-ranging deer, but the bill gets ahead of the curve to prevent careless use.

“No studies have been done on effects on humans eating venison of deer treated with this drug,” Dickie said.

“Those are things we want sportsmen to be watching for and listening for, and although we don’t have bill numbers yet, we know through the grapevine those things are coming,” Dickie said.

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