BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — An overhaul of Louisiana’s recreational hunting and fishing licensing system that would pull more money out of some people’s pockets edged forward Wednesday in the Legislature.
With a 12-3 vote, the House natural resources committee sent the 40-page bill to the House floor for debate.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is pushing the licensing redesign as a regulatory streamlining initiative. The 117 recreational hunting and fishing licenses currently offered would drop to 39.
Bill sponsor Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, a Houma Republican, said the measure would “reduce the redundancy that exists in the licensing” while also ensuring the agency has money to continue its work.
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But with the changes also come some fee hikes, depending on the type of license category a hunter or angler purchases. Opponents criticized those increases, which the department estimated would bring in an extra $10 million annually.
Rep. Blake Miguez, an Erath Republican, questioned why the agency needed to raise fees now when it still has balances in its accounts. He objected to presentations that the proposal was a “restructuring bill.”
“This is a fee increase,” Miguez told Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Jack Montoucet. “The description of this bill isn’t accurate.”
Among the increased charges, a resident’s hook and line fishing license would rise from $2.50 to $5, and a basic hunting license for a state resident would grow from $15 to $20.
Some license costs would go down under the bill. For example, the “Sportsman’s Paradise” license for residents, which pays for hunting and fishing privileges, would decrease from $100 to $90.
The department said the changes and shrinking of the number of licenses would put Louisiana more in line with other Southern states.
Wildlife and Fisheries doesn’t rely on general state revenue, but uses money from licenses, fees, permits and oil and gas resources to pay its expenses. Agency officials say the revenue streams aren’t keeping up with inflation, and the oil and gas slump has hit some of its income.
The last recreational hunting and fishing license changes were enacted in 2000.
Miguez’s objections appeared to be about more than licensing adjustments. At one point during Wednesday’s hearing, he had a heated exchange with Montoucet over the agency’s plan to close offices in Miguez’s area and consolidate into a new Lafayette office. Miguez said lawmakers weren’t told of the idea.
“You’re the one who preaches about cutting government, but when it happens in your backyard you’re against it,” Montoucet, a Democratic former lawmaker, told Miguez.
Miguez replied: “I’m concerned about transparency.”
“You’re trying to tell me how to run the department,” Montoucet shot back.
House Bill 687: www.legis.la.gov