2017 Georgia Legislative Session: New Bill To Increase License Fees Likely

New legislation to increase hunting and fishing license fees is expected again. Also, expect both pro-gun and gun-ban legislation.

Legislators from all over the state are in Atlanta for the annual 40-day session to make and change laws, and we’re betting that most of those politicians wouldn’t know if Georgia’s deer limit was closer to one deer per season or 100 deer.

Meanwhile, there was a familiar tone to the recent Wildlife Resources Division public meetings, where sportsmen had an opportunity to offer suggestions and air grievances about hunting regulations.

As usual, the most popular topics at the regs meetings were baiting in the Northern Zone and the deer limit, which require law change by the Georgia state legislature. WRD could hear from every deer hunter in Georgia saying they wanted changes to the baiting law and deer limits, and WRD couldn’t make a change if they wanted.

Legalizing baiting statewide and reducing the deer limit are not priorities for WRD, so you won’t see the agency push for that legislation.

What WRD does want is to increase the costs of hunting and fishing licenses. Sportsmen can expect license-fee legislation to reemerge in the next few weeks after two efforts last year failed to get the proper political traction. DNR surveys showed that most stakeholders support a license-fee increase. The 2016 GON’s VOTES survey of hunters and fishermen found that 36 percent supported a license-fee increase, 26 percent opposed it, and 38 percent said they needed more information about what WRD would do with additional funds.

The last fee increase for in-state hunters and fishermen was in 2001, and those addition revenues were used for the land-acquisition program Preservation 2000. Those land purchases are now fully paid for, but even with that additional money from the fee increase now going to DNR’s budget, the costs for Georgia licenses are below average for southeastern states.

If new legislation this year mirrors the proposed increases from last year, a resident hunting license would increase from $10 to $15, and a resident big-game license would increase from $9 to $25. A resident fishing license would increase from $9 to $15. A resident Sportsman’s License, which covers all hunting and fishing, would increase from $55 to $65.

• Gun Laws: After Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed two laws passed by legislators last year, expect those bills to resurface. Gov. Deal vetoed the “Campus Carry” bill, and he also vetoed House Bill 1060 because of a measure that would require churches to opt-in if they want to ban weapons, rather the current law that says weapons are banned unless a church says they are legal.

Meanwhile, a gun-confiscation bill introduced by a coalition of Georgia Democrats last year is back. HB 10 will ban commonly owned semi-automatic guns and required confiscation of those guns from law-abiding owners. HB 10 will ban the possession, sale, transport and distribution or use of certain firearms defined as “assault weapons” based entirely on how guns look and because of their semi-auto action.

“As proven by the failed 1994 Clinton Gun ban, this misguided legislation would have no effect on crime and would only affect law-abiding gun owners in Georgia, potentially turning them into criminals overnight,” said the NRA-ILA.

Check www.gon.com for timely updates on Georgia’s legislative session.

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