Friday, April 21, 2017
NOTES FROM THE SENATE, APRIL 21, 2017
NEW LICENSE FEES TOP NATURAL RESOURCE LEGISLATION
There was not an abundance of legislation affecting natural resources or the environment this session, but as usual there was much discussion of issues. One piece of legislation that did not pass was the shoreline protection bill, which set out a new way of measuring the shore/property line. The bill generated a good bit of opposition and did not pass.
LEGISLATION NOW ON GOVERNOR'S DESK
HB 208 - This bill revises various license fees for commercial and individual hunting, fishing and trapping licenses as well as boat fees. DNR proposed a fee increase based on support from sportsmen groups who said they had been promised that additional DNR rangers would be hired if a fee increase was granted. Also, DNR claimed that Georgia's proceeds from federal excise taxes on ammunition and other sporting products were dependent on the actual sale of licenses and that free licenses, such as those given to seniors and veterans, cost the state these funds. Lastly, a state audit released in late 2016, compared Georgia's license fees and found them generally less than other Southeastern states' fees. Full disclosure: I voted against HB 208, but the bill passed 43-12.
SOME PROVISIONS OF HB 208
Ends free hunting and fishing license for individuals over 65 beginning with those born after July 1, 1952...New Over 65 Annual Sportsman License - $7.00. Lifetime License - $70.00
Ends free licenses for veterans - allows returning veterans a free license for one year...80% of standard fee afterward...
Disabled individuals will receive a "discounted" license...$3.00. Hunting or Fishing only, $5.00 combo
Resident Annual Fishing License - $15.00 (was $9.00),
Hunting License - $15.00 (was $10.00), Hunting and
Fishing License - $30.00 (was $17.00)
Resident Annual Big Game License - $25.00 (was $9.00)
Boat Registration fees-under 16 feet $25.00 (was $15.00), 16-26 feet $60.00 (was $36.00) There is a provision to limit future increases to 20%.
HB 413 - This bill adds an EPD permit requirement to the process already in place for construction of a petroleum pipeline. The process still includes a certificate of public convenience which must be issued by the Department of Transportation if eminent domain is going to be used. The Director of EPD is tasked with evaluating the environmental impact and hearing from the public on the EPD permit. Landowners and other aggrieved or adversely affected have a right to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge under the Georgia Administrative Procedures Act. Public notice is required of the intended pipeline route and notice must be delivered to all property owners who own property located within 1000 feet of the proposed pipeline.
HB 183 - Attaches the Geospatial Advisory Council to the Department of Community Affairs. Involved with improving governmental inoperability through the use of geospatial technology including Global Positioning (GPS), Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS).
SB 128 - Allows the sharing of drivers' license information with the Department of Natural Resources to defend against fraudulent license applications.
FUNDING INVOLVING NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION AND PUBLIC USE
Budget Item No. 225.9 - Directs the Environmental Protection Division to present a plan for financing and implementation over three years assessing the potential for the public due to damn structural weaknesses.
Budget Item No. 227.6 - Adds $77,000 for one position and salary adjustment for review historians and architects within DNR's Historic Preservation Division.
Bond No. 348.661 - $19.9 million - Funds major improvements and renovations in state parks and facilities.
Bond No. 348.662 - $1 million for facility repairs and sustainment.
Bond No. 348.663 - $1.67 million for construction of two boathouses on Lake Hartwell and Lake Russell and one regional law enforcement office building.
Bond No. 348.664 - $5 million for land acquisition for wildlife and natural resource preservation.
Full transcripts of bills may be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx . Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. The FY 2018 budget (H.B. 44) may be found at http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/en-US/AppropriationsDocuments.aspx. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.