At this late date most outdoor folks of Hoosierland are aware that the
bill that would have created an inexpensive fishing license for senior
citizens didn't get a smell of rotten legislative action.
But did you know why? It's a rather strange--but not really not so
Nobody at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or its satellite
Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) will admit any part of it, but a little
bird (it may have been a mockingbird) told me that the failure of the natural
resources and fish and wildlife agency to back the bill effectively killed
It is academic now, but as you know, HB 1073 would have created an
inexpensive license to fish for senior citizens who, for several years
have fished free--no license, no nothing . . . just go fish.
This is all well and good--something free for the golden-agers of which
I am a member.
It also is academic now that the failure of the legislature to create
that very inexpensive license left the DFW roughly $1 million short in
funding per year.
Here's they way the little bird spins the yarn:
When Governor Frank O'Bannon died unexpectedly last fall the DNR was
on track to seeking modest hikes in hunting/fishing license fees. It was
in the works and the late governor had approved it.
Also in the works was a plan to create the inexpensive seniors fishing
license to get more federal funding, which is derived from excise taxes
that all Hoosier outdoor persons pay on the paraphernalia they buy. This
big pot--millions if not billions--is apportioned to state fish and wildlife
agencies in accordance with the number of licenses sold.
When the DNR threw in the towel on its plans to hike hunting/fishing
license fees, folks at the agency indicated (said flatly) that the move
to establish an inexpensive fishing license for seniors would be continued.
But suddenly--just as the arrival of a substitute governor had come
about--DNR backing for the inexpensive seniors fishing license waned.
However, the inexpensive fishing license for seniors concept (after
approval of the Natural Resources Summer Study Committee), was introduced
as HB 1073 by Rep. Bob Bischoff (D-Lawrenceburg). Rep. Bischoff, a friend
of the DNR and the DFW on many important issues of the past, also is chairman
of the House Natural Resources Committee, to which such measures ordinarily
would be referred.
Conservationists of the state had reason to believe the concept might
become reality this session, having failed in several sessions past.
But HB 1073 was referred instead to the House Ways and Means Committee
where it was not heard.
If the bill were to eventually be adopted by the legislature, the Ways
and Means Committee would have had to approve it. But there was little
doubt that HB 1073 would have gained approval of the Bischoff panel, and
with this kind of credentials it would have been more difficult for the
Ways and Means committee to totally ignore it.
Rep. Bill Crawford, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee,
told me Monday afternoon that he did not hear the bill because he did not
think a short session was the time to take up such a matter. He said it
would be better to address the issue in a long session of the legislature,
which would bring about a better understanding of the matter.
But at the time, Rep. Crawford said he did not feel that he could justify
taking away the senior citizen's right to fish free.
In the meantime, if you need corroboration for the little bird's song,
let me run this past you: After the DFW and DNR had said their reason for
abandonment of the modest fee-hike ship was based on the fact that they
could get along nicely without that extra funding (increased funding probably
would have been in the neighborhood of $8-million per year), I was told
by a DFW official that the plan for legislation on the inexpensive senior
fishing license still was "damn the torpedoes . . . full speed ahead."
I also was told that it would be nice if I (an early backer of the
concept) would write a letter to the DFW outlining my thinking on the importance
of the matter.
I did not say I would--or wouldn't--write the letter. But I didn't.
I didn't write the letter . . . and I won't . . . at least not until the
DNR raises hunting/fishing license in accordance to need . . . not political
The Division of Fish and Wildlife sorely needs more funding for programs
designed to make hunting and fishing better for all of us, including seniors.
I am sorry if this sounds like a broken record. But there is no such
thing as a free lunch anymore, without regard to whether the guy behind
the fishing pole or gun is a senior citizen or a middle-aged guy with a
family. If we want better fish and wildlife programs, we must pay the freight.