License Fee Bill Passes in Double Overtime

If you thought an NBA Finals overtime game was exciting, it was nothing compared to the saga of the License Fee Bill. House Bill 4668, which overhauls the hunting and fishing license fee structure, provides approximately $19 million in conservation funding for fish and wildlife habitat and more conservation officers on the ground. After sailing through the House and then the Senate Appropriations Committee, though, it hit a stumbling block in the Senate that no one expected.

For context, Michigan United Conservation Clubs supports the license fee proposal because the DNR is being transparent with how they’ll invest it. About $7 million is going to fish and wildlife habitat projects, $4.5 million for additional conservation officers, and more for fish hatchery maintenance, angler outreach, and improving the license fee delivery system.

On June 14, though, we heard some Senators were balking because of a little-used poll on the bottom of our website. Online polls like ours are fun ways for readers to express their opinions, but they don’t have the kind of safeguards to ensure a reliable margin of error. For instance, we have no idea who’s taking our poll, whether its people who hunt or fish, people from in-state or not, or if one person is voting multiple times from different computers. So, to prove the point that we shouldn’t rely on random online polls for important policy decisions, we encouraged people to vote in the poll and turned it around in about an hour.

That was just the tip of the iceberg. We heard more Senators were balking, and put out the word to call Senators in support of the bill. And the simple fact is this: no one wants to raise fees on anyone. We don’t either, but part of being responsible hunters, anglers and trappers is to pay our fair share for the management of our natural resources. What we ask in return is transparency with how it’s spent from the DNR.

When the Senate returned to session on Tuesday, June 18, HB 4668 was on the calendar, but by late afternoon we thought it would be bumped by Medicaid legislation discussions. Also on Tuesday afternoon, the bill that raises ORV fees failed the Senate vote, but then passed on reconsideration, which should have warned us. Just at the end of the day, then, the Senate voted on HB 4668 and it failed in a 19-19 tie (20 votes are required for passage). Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley would normally cast any tie-breaking vote, but he was promoting Pure Michigan in the Upper Peninsula.

The Senate decided to reconsider the vote on June 19, so we put the word out again to call your Senators, along with numerous partner groups like Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, the Lake Effect Chapter of the Michigan Duck Hunters Association, Ducks Unlimited, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and many others too numerous to list.

The Senate did vote again that morning, but it once again failed by one vote, with 19 voting in favor and 18 against, but still not yet at that 20-vote threshold. Lt. Governor Calley was there this time, but since it was not a tie he had no tie to break. The Senate reconsidered the vote again and came back to it in late afternoon, but this time with an amendment.

Sen. Rebekah Warren (D – Ann Arbor) had voted against the bill the first two times, but offered an amendment to require the DNR Fisheries Division to complete its tactical plan by October (it completed its broad strategic plan in February). She praised the Wildlife Division’s strategic planning and annual reporting, and the amendment will make sure the Fisheries Division does the same, which will improve the DNR’s improving transparency even more. Senator Mike Green (R – Mayville) stood up to the support the amendment, it passed, and then the entire bill passed 24-14 on its third vote in two days.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs thanks every single one of you who called your Senators, and the Senators themselves for agreeing to a bipartisan compromise to put conservation over politics and passing a bill to provide conservation funding to the DNR. We always say that hunters, anglers and trappers fund conservation in Michigan, and with this bill, we expect to see greater returns from that investment.

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  • Matt

    Sure, lets drive hunter numbers even lower by raising prices. That’ll leave us even more exposed to the antis efforts to end hunting. Who made MUCC the voice of all sportsman? I sure didn’t, you lost my support a long time ago. #banmuccfromlawmaking

    • Drew YoungeDyke

      Matt, MUCC is the voice of hunters and anglers who care enough to organize and make a difference. Our policies come from our members, so if you want to change them, become a member, introduce a resolution, and convince 2/3 of your fellow members that you’re right. Hunters and anglers have funded conservation efforts in this state for a century, and the cost to manage the resource doesn’t stay stagnant just because some people would rather not pay their share. We demanded the DNR be transparent with how they spend the money, and they’re doing just that. It’s going primarily to fish and wildlife habitat, stocking, and to hire CO’s, which will improve hunting and fishing, which will do more in the long-run to retain and recruit hunters and anglers than a 1997 fee structure trying to keep up with post-2013 realities.

    • Drew YoungeDyke

      And seriously, ban mucc from lawmaking? Who do you think is leading the charge against the anti-hunters? Who do you think it was that got SB 288 and 289 passed to make hunting and fishing RIGHTS in Michigan law and to make sure game decisions are made by biologists instead of 30-second anti-hunting ads? Where were you when we did that? What did you do to help make that happen?

      • JustSayNo to Special Interest

        But it’s “OK” to let special Interest groups make regs for everyone? Take TU for instance, or QDMA’s quest for APR’s for instance! Game decisions made survey? Where’s the Sound Scientific Management in that? You talk out both side of the mouth….

  • Norm

    Raise prices and lose more hunters and fisherman! Maybe this is part of the big picture to keep people off the land. I’m 67 and done with there antics, will spend more time in Florida and maybe like it enough move there! I agree Matt, since when is MUCC voice of all the people. I guess calling and e-mailing my Rep and Senator means nothing anymore, they could care less! This is another “SHAM” by the DNR, they won’t get another penny from me, good by Michigan…….

  • Dave

    Thank you MUCC for your work and encouragement to get HB 4668 passed. The cost increases are minimal and the funding provided is necessary to further conservation in the great state of Michigan…..We should never take for granted what our state has to offer and the access that we have to state owned lands, a truly magnificent gift. A gift that is cared for by a department that needed increased funding. Today is a good day!

  • Jim Felgenauer

    Hunting and fishing licenses have always been the best recreation values around and still are. Just having more conservation officers in the field will be worth it. Thanks to everyone for their hard work and diligence.

  • JustSay NO to Special Interest

    SPECIAL INTEREST groups make me sick…. I pike/walleye/bass fish for only 1 week a year in the UP. Bass fisherman, Walleye fishermen, Perch fisherman, Pike fishermen should be outraged. Anyone who does not need to buy the all species license is now paying $10.00 more to subsidize the SPECIAL INTEREST trout and salmon fishermen’s $3.00 discount. Talk about welfare. Now, lets not forget about the Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative’s APR agenda. Another special interest group that is causing division in MI deer hunting….. I’m with Norm, I’m about done with Michigan.

    • Drew YoungeDyke

      Really? $25 for a season of fishing outrages you? What percentage of the total amount you spent on a week of UP fishing is an extra $10?With the fishing licenses consolidated, it was either reduce the all species by a few bucks or raise the old one even more. A fee that hasn’t been raised since 1997 went up $10, and now you can target species you hadn’t before if you choose too. For their part, the trout/salmon groups asked to pay more – and they’ve been paying almost double for years – but that would have kept two separate licenses when the DNR’s goal was to make it simple.

  • Frank

    Stuck it to us again.

  • luckless

    This is terrible and I believe that list of supporters is bogus. I only had to check on one to find out. These jokers in Lansing are looking for any excuse to raise taxes and increase spending.

    • Drew YoungeDyke

      luckless, you keep talking about this “list,” but there’s nothing in the house journal. If you have a link, please share it. The groups in the Conservation Coalition did support it, but outside of that, please provide some proof before you call it “bogus.”

      • luckless

        Ask Amy Trotter if anyone has recently requested that they be removed from your list of supporting organizations. Granted, I only checked one on a hunch but so far I am batting a thousand. My senator’s office claimed that they were given figures that show sportsmen support this by a margin of ten to one. Have you ever known ten deer hunters to agree on anything related to their sport? It is unreasonable to assume there is that kind of support for this entire package.

        • Drew YoungeDyke

          What list? Seriously, please share this list you keep talking about so that it can be verified.

        • Drew YoungeDyke

          luckless, email me at dyoungedyke@mucc.org if you want to discuss this further.

  • JustSay NO to Special Interest

    Special interest groups make me sick. Anyone who does not need to buy the All Species fishing license is now going to pay $10.00 more to subsidize trout/salmon $3.00 discount.. Talk about Welfare,,,,,,

    A special interest group getting a discount, Bass, walleye, perch, pike, bluegill, muskie fishermen should be outraged..

    Then we have NWLP-QDM and the LP-DMI with their selfish quest for APR’s throughout the state dividing MI deer hunters.. I’m with Norm, Goodbye Michigan because it’s all a sham.

    • skinny

      Try being an out of state hunter/fisherman who owns property and pays substantial property taxes with no benefits what so ever.

  • DaveS

    Whine, Whine, Whine! Take your wife to the movies, split a small popcorn and a small pop and you will have spent more than it costs for a fishing license that covers the entire year. If you don’t like how MUCC is representing us then volunteer to be a local representative and do something constructive with your time. If you are “done” with Michigan, I am sure California will have room for you!

  • Anthony

    The extra money isn’t that big of a deal to me, it’s what the politicians do with the money, what the chance it really goes to where they say it will go to.

    • Drew YoungeDyke

      Anthony, that was our first question when we heard the plan. So we asked the DNR for a list of outcomes that we could hold them to, and they provided it here: http://michigan.gov/documents/dnr/Outcomes_411655_7.pdf
      Also, the plan has a 5-year sunset, which means that if they don’t spend it how they say they will, it won’t get renewed. However, based on the transparency that the DNR has been showing lately, such as with the Wildlife and Fisheries Divisions strategic plans and annual reports, we are confident it will be spent where they say it will and we have the tools to make sure they do.