License Fee Increase Passed By Legislature

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Pro-gun bills also approved by Georgia legislators; measures await signature of Gov. Nathan Deal.

The state legislature has approved a measure to increase hunting and fishing license fees.

On March 28, just two days before the end of the legislation session, the state Senate passed the measure by a vote of 43 to 12. To see how your state senator voted, click here.

House Bill 208 was passed out of the House on March 1 by a vote of 150 in favor and 14 opposed. To see how your state representative voted on the license-fee increase, click here.

Before the measure becomes law, it must be signed by Governor Nathan Deal.

“We are not only grateful for the leadership of Governor Deal, our sponsors Representative Trey Rhodes and Senator PK Martin, and the General Assembly, but also for our customers who have supported us in this initiative for nearly three years through public forums across the state and the thousands of responses they have provided,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Williams. “Today is a great day for the sportsmen and women of this state and conservation in Georgia. Through HB 208, we will be able to increase access to public lands, improve educational programs and enhance wildlife management practices, among many other things. DNR looks forward to providing even better service through this important piece of legislation.”

HB 208 significantly increases most license fees, but even with the increase, Georgia’s fees remain below average for southeastern states.

The cost of an annual Georgia resident hunting license increases 50 percent from $10 to $15. The annual resident big game license increases 122 percent from $9 to $20. A resident Sportsman’s License sees the smallest hike—an 18 percent increase—from $55 to $65 per year.

The license-fee hike should bring an infusion of money for DNR, which relies on sportsmen for funding through license fees and special federal taxes on equipment we purchase. However, it’s worth noting that license-fee revenues pass through the General Assembly before being allocated to DNR, so there’s always a need for sportsmen to keep an eye on their money to make sure it’s being used for activities that benefit hunting and fishing.

HB 208 also creates small fees to replace the free honorary licenses that have traditionally been available to many groups. DNR says that 34 percent of licenses—300,000—are free honorary licenses given to landowners, residents 65 and older, disabled persons, youth and veterans. Honorary licenses, for the most part, have been done away with, and instead those people need to purchase a “discounted” license—$5 for an annual combo hunting and fishing license. DNR says this change was important because it will bring in an addition $13 million in federal funds from Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Funds, which are taxes you pay on hunting, shooting and fishing gear. The federal government doles that tax back to states based in part on license sales, and honorary licenses don’t count. There are now optional youth licenses, which will be a way for sportsmen to further support DNR efforts — almost like a contribution that will generate a small amount of license revenue, and more importantly will count toward bringing in more federal funds.

Several of the Senators who voted against HB 208 cited the boat-registration increases. Sen. John Albers, a Republican from Alpharetta, voted against the measure because he felt a “massive” 60 percent increase for boaters was excessive.

“We should be reducing burdensome fees on Georgia’s citizens,” Sen. Albers said.

There was also opposition from some coastal legislators, including Sen. William Ligon Jr., a Republican from Brunswick, who cited the increases in fees on crabbers.

Once signed by the Governor, here’s how the new legislation will affect license and boat registration fees (shown with old cost and new cost):

Hunting Licenses
Resident hunting license: increase from $10 to $15
Resident big game license: $9 to $25
Nonresident hunting license: $100
Nonresident big game license: $195 to $225
Resident senior hunting license for 65 years of age or older: Honorary to $4
Resident alligator harvest permit: $50 to $75.
Nonresident alligator harvest permit: $200 to $250.

Hunting and Fishing Combo Licenses
Resident hunting/fishing license: $17 to $30
Resident hunting/fishing license: One-day $3.50 to $5
Nonresident hunting/fishing license: $100 to $150
Nonresident hunting/fishing license: One-day $30

Sportsman’s Licenses
Resident sportsman’s license: $55 to $65
Nonresident sportsman’s license: $400
Resident sportsman’s license: One-day $25
Nonresident sportsman’s license: One-day $170
Resident optional youth sportsman’s license, 12-15 years old: $5
Resident optional youth sportsman’s license: Multiyear $15
Resident senior sportsman’s license for 65 years of age or older: $7

Recreational Fishing Licenses
Resident fishing license: $9 to $15
Nonresident fishing license: $45 to $50
Nonresident fishing license: One-day $10
Resident trout license: $5 to $10
Resident trout license: One-day $3.50 to $5
Nonresident trout license: $20 to $25
Nonresident trout license: One-day $10
Resident optional youth fishing license for 12 to 15 years of age: $3
Resident optional youth fishing license (12 to 15 years old): Multiyear $10
Resident senior fishing license for 65 years of age or older: $4

Trapping Licenses
Resident commercial trapping license: $30 to $40
Nonresident commercial trapping license: $295 to 325

Boat Registration (Registrations Now Valid For 3-Year Period)
Vessels up to 16 feet in length: $15 to $25
Vessels 16 to 26 feet in length: $36 to $60
Vessels 26 to 40 feet in length: $90 to $130
Vessels 40 feet in length or longer: $150 to $200

Legislature Passes Several Pro-Gun Bills

The Georgia legislature passed House Bill 280, House Bill 292 and House Bill 406, and all are now at the desk of Governor Nathan Deal awaiting his signature. Last year, Gov. Deal vetoed similar measures. The NRA is asking members to contact the Georgia governor and urge him to sign these bills into law. 

House Bill 280 seeks to amend restrictions in state law that prohibit law-abiding Georgia Weapons License (GWL) holders from being able to protect themselves on college and university campuses. HB 280 would allow law-abiding GWL holders to carry when they are in or on certain buildings or real property owned by or leased to any public technical school, vocational school, college, university or other institution of postsecondary education. There were 70 no votes by members of the State House of Representatives, and 21 state Senators voted against HB 280. Click the links to see how your elected state legislators voted.

House Bill 292 would make several positive and important changes to Georgia gun laws, including:

  • Providing licensees of states with reciprocal agreements with Georgia a 90 day grace period to obtain a GWL while continuing to carry legally using their previous states’ license
  • Prohibiting a probate judge from suspending, extending, delaying, or avoiding the process of approving a GWL application
  • Protecting any firearms instructor who lawfully instructs, educates, or trains a person in the safe, proper, or technical use of a firearm from civil liability for any injuries caused by the failure of such person to use such firearm properly or lawfully
  • Making a code change regarding permit reciprocity
  • Defines a knife in state code as a cutting instrument larger than 12 inches
  • Prohibits discrimination by financial institutions against the firearm industry simply because they are engaged in the lawful commerce of firearm

There were 49 no votes by members of the State House of Representatives, and 16 state Senators voted against HB 292. Click the links to see how your elected state legislators voted. 

House Bill 406 seeks to amend certain issues with current reciprocity laws in Georgia. This would allow Virginia concealed handgun permit holders to enjoy permit reciprocity with Georgia. 

Longer Deer Season Didn’t Pass

House Bill 186 and Senate Bill 122 would have changed the statewide closing date for firearms deer season to the third Monday in January, and it would also have kept archery deer hunting open statewide until Jan. 31. The third Monday in January is MLK Day, a holiday for school kids and many workers.

Georgia’s firearms deer season currently closes on the second Sunday of January. This season it closed on Jan. 8, and next season it will close on Jan. 13, 2018.

If HB 186 had passed, gun hunting for deer wouldn’t close until Jan. 21 during the 2018-2019 season. Allowing archery hunting with bows and crossbows statewide until Jan. 31 would mirror what the state currently allows only for counties in the metro Atlanta area, which don’t allow gun hunting.

During committee discussions regarding SB 122, there was talk about extending small-game seasons into March. WRD told legislators that extending small-game seasons could negatively impact the populations of three game animals in particular—fox squirrels, rabbits and quail.

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