"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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DNR Considering Hunting/Fishing License Fee Hikes
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Scifres

Details are skimpy at this time, but Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials are thinking in terms of another round of hikes in hunting/fishing license fees almost before they can count the funding derived from the last hike.
Lest that sound sour-grapeish, let me point out that this reporter was one who pointed out that the last round of fee hikes--steep as they were-- would only slow the bill collectors.
However that is (or was), the thinking now involves only a modest hike in fees (probably only a few bucks) for residents. It is needed to beef up numbers of conservation officers, and maintain some programs of the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).
It is not clear at this time whether the fee hikes would include non-resident fees, but insiders tell me that fee schedules for non-residents will be compared to those of surrounding states. This could be translated into healthy fee increases for non-residents and modest increases for residents.
Here is the way the DNR brass say the process will go: This fall the DNR will stage a series of public meetings at which Hoosier residents will have an opportunity to voice their opinions.
Early next year--possibly in January--the DNR Commission will consider more concrete proposals. Such proposals could be acted upon at that time by the commission, or they could be up for approval at a later commission meeting.

Before the last round of fee hikes, hunting/fishing license fees had not been increased for 14 years because of political implications--especially in the last 10 to 15 years. The "no new taxes" decrees of the past few administrations would not allow the legislature an opportunity to even think about increasing hunting/fishing license fees. A close look at recent history leaves little room for doubt that political bumbling painted us into this fiscal corner.
Through much of this period fees were the baby of the Indiana General Assembly. But in its 2001 session, the legislature adopted a one-sentence law which gave the commission authority to set hunting/fishing/trapping fees. That led to the last round of fee hikes which became effective on January 1, 2002. That round of fee hikes boosted annual revenue from license fees about $2-million per year (from about $13-million to about $15-million).
No framework for public meetings to offer public input is in place at this time. Such meetings probably will be conducted in November or early in December.


In another revenue matter, the DNR will propose a $3 fishing license for senior citizens who have been allowed to fish free for many years.
This proposal, which also would change the age from 65 to 60 for those wanting to buy a license to fish, will be presented to the DNR Summer Legislative Study Committee at the last 2003 meeting of that panel on October 28 at The Garrison at Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. Time has not been set.
If the committee approves, a bill will be introduced in the coming session of the legislature.
Similar bills have failed in the last two sessions of the legislature even though the free fishing license for seniors is causing the DFW to lose more than $1 million per year in federal funding.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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