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Eye On Boise

Deadlocked House State Affairs Committee rejects fee hike for non-motorized boaters

After two tied votes, a deadlocked House State Affairs Committee refused this morning to introduce legislation proposed by the state Department of Parks & Recreation to increase fees for invasive species stickers for boats that just were imposed last year. The fees for non-motorized craft, including canoes and rafts, would have jumped from $5 to $7. Parks officials and Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, said the hike was needed to add in a $1.50 vendor fee to pay private vendors who sell the stickers. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, was among those speaking out against the fee hike. “The biggest complaint I have received about this particular program is from non-motorized vessel owners, not the outfitters and guides - families who have a canoe or a raft,” Labrador said. “They’re not happy about paying $5, and I’m sure they’re not going to be happy about paying $7.”

The bill also would have increased the fees by $2 for out-of-state boaters and for outfitters and guides, but wouldn’t have changed the fees for owners of motorized boats. Anderson said that’s because their boat registration already includes a vendor fee. This year, for motorized boaters, the invasive species sticker - which funds programs to prevent the introduction of quagga and zebra mussels and other invasives into Idaho waterways - will be combined with boat registration into a single sticker. Officials expect that to improve compliance; last year, of 91,000 in-state registered boats, invasive species stickers were purchased for just 53,617. The state sold 17,972 stickers to owners of non-motorized boats, and 6,565 to out-of-state boaters.

Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, said, “I just can’t vote in favor of raising the fees when we have a compliance problem.” Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, called for keeping Idahoans’ fees the same but boosting out-of-state boaters’ fees by a third. But Rep. Burt Stevenson, R-Rupert, said, “Put it on the out-of-state? We tried that with Fish & Game, and all that happened is the out-of state stopped coming.”

After motions to reject the bill and to introduce it both failed on tied 8-8 votes, State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said the bill could be proposed again, but “I think they’ve got to do some homework. There may be some changes they want to make in it, and not do the non-motorized craft - that’s probably the biggest problem.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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