The Senate has voted 31-4 in favor of the much-amended Fish & Game fee increase bill, after a rather odd debate. Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, opened the debate by saying, “I think we could go to the 14th Order one more time before this bill goes to the garbage can, but I’ll do my best.” While explaining one of the bill’s provisions, he said, “It’s more of a social massage than it is actually guaranteeing that one of these days you’re going to get to hunt in that area.” The amended bill, SB 1141a, now maintains current fees for resident hunters, while increasing fees for non-residents by about 7.5 percent. It raises only $2.55 million, Siddoway said, assuming license and tag sales remain roughly even, but he said by cutting 5 percent from personnel costs at the Fish & Game Department, the department will save another $2.5 million. “Add those two up and that comes pretty close to the $5.1 million that the department has been asking for, and hopefully that will keep them whole,” Siddoway told the Senate.
Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “I’m going to support this legislation, but I think we need to take a real good look at the fiscal impact.” In assuming that license and tag sales will remain about the same, he said, “We’re being a little naive. … Wolves have taken care of that and there’s nothing we can do about that.” The bill now moves to the House.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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