Thank you for your participation in Camo Coalition. I am privileged to be at the Georgia State Capitol often during the General Assembly session. I wish each of you involved in Camo Coalition could hear the respect the voice of the hunters and anglers command at the Capitol because of your involvement.
We’ve crossed the half-way point of the session. Tuesday is Legislative day 23 of the 40 Day session. Legislators have rapidly been introducing bills to this point and have been focused on the initial committee assignments of their bills. There have been a few committee hearings and bills are beginning to be passed through their originating chamber.
With 40 days in the session, Legislators always feel the pressure of the calendar. One of the biggest days of the legislative session is what’s called “Crossover Day”. Crossover Day is the last legislative day which a bill can cross from one chamber to the other. That is to say, if a bill is introduced in the House, it must pass the full House by or on Crossover Day or it is dead. Unless the legislature suspends its own rules, something that rarely happens, all work stops on any bills that didn’t “cross over”. This year Crossover Day is February 28, which is the 28th legislative day.
With the pressure of Crossover Day, many Capitol lobbyists and legislators believe the real work of the General Assembly doesn’t begin until about halfway through the session. Prior to that, they believe everyone is seeing and introducing bills to prepare for the hard work of legislating.
Five bills, currently, are very important to hunters, anglers and those that love being outdoors:
House Resolution 238 & House Bill 332 – Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act
This may well be the most important conservation legislation to come along in generations. HR 238, a proposed constitutional amendment, would establish and protect a trust fund of money, without raising taxes, to be used both for securing public lands and for the maintenance of those lands. Assuming passage through the General Assembly in 2018, Georgian’s will have a chance to vote on this initiative in the November general election.
HB 332 is the enabling legislation that describes the methodology and mechanism by which the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund would be funded and establishes its priorities. Based loosely on the sales and use tax on fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing equipment, the Trust would be funded by a portion of the existing state sales and use tax. Current estimates of $20M per year would be available for securing wildlife management areas, parks, trails, military base buffering and conservation easements. The funds could also be used for the “stewardship” of those lands…that is the maintenance of the lands for public use. GWF supports HR 238 and HB 332.
House Bill 186 & Senate Bill 122 – Extending the deer hunting season
These two bills, introduced in the 2017 General Assembly session, would extend deer season and because of that extension, extend small game season.
Georgia already has one of the longest deer seasons in the nation. This bill would require the firearm season to run until January 15 and the archery season would extend to January 31. This extension of the season might not be biologically significant for the deer, though it would certainly entail the killing of bucks that have already shed their antlers.
The primary concern is the extension of the small game season to March 5 to compensate for the longer deer season. The extension of small game hunting would indeed be biologically significant, almost certainly negatively impacting small game populations, and small game hunting is often the gateway to bringing new hunters into the sport.
House Bill 923 – Hunting deer over bait across all of Georgia
This is a simple bill, literally one paragraph. The bill eliminates the northern and southern zone associated with deer hunting and then allows hunting over bait statewide for deer.
The last part of the bill says that baiting can’t prevent an adjacent landowner from hunting on his/her own land. For example, putting corn on the ground adjacent to a property line could prevent someone from hunting doves on their land; or bear, or any other game animal without this language. However, this state law can’t supersede federal law such as the migratory bird act or waterfowl regulations. Those federal standards still prevent someone from hunting a dove field or hunting ducks on adjoining land if the baiting/feeding is happening too close.
Aside from the legal issue, the ethics of hunting over bait is an even bigger challenge. Fair chase, the concept that the hunt is more important than the shot, is critical to the future of hunting. Today’s society, more removed from the land, more removed from hunting, is increasingly looking at hunting without being involved in hunting. I challenge you to ask your non-hunting friends about the ethics of luring a deer with food for the purpose of shooting that deer while it stands and eats. GWF is opposed to this bill.
Again, thank you for being part our Camo Coalition. When you speak, when you reach out, when you respond our legislators pay attention. Many at the Capitol, both friends and occasional foes, are in awe of the thoughtful, timely contacts made by Camo Coalition members.
Be ready, I am certain in the coming weeks of the 2018 General Assembly your voice will be important in promoting hunting, fishing, wildlife and wild places and all the natural resource heritage we all cherish.
President & CEO
Georgia Wildlife Federation