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Eye On Olympia

Fish and Wildlife battle: not over yet…

The battle to strip the state Fish and Wildlife Commission of some of its powers — mainly hiring and firing the director of the agency — continues.

Commercial fisherman say the board is tilted too far in favor of sport/recreational anglers. The latter say that the board is simply making the hard decisions necessary to preserve the region’s fish runs, and that rod-and-reel anglers are inherently more selective than folks who scoop up fish with nets. Here’s a story with a lot more details.

Last week, Rep. Brian Blake tried to hash out a deal that would have stripped the commission of direct control over the agency director. It would have also taken the commission out of regulating commercial fishing. The deal fell apart when another lawmaker wanted to eliminate many game fish and all hunting from regulation by the commission as well. The bill, SB 5127, was dead.

But the idea wasn’t. Sometime between last Monday and today — the online bill record isn’t as detailed as I’d like on this — similar provisions were quietly tucked into another bill that’s parked in a committee chaired by Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle (above). Jacobsen’s the one who’d prime-sponsored 5127.

Result: Just like Jacobsen’s bill, House Bill 1778 would now shrink the 9-member commission to 7, shorten their terms, and give the governor the authority to pick a director for the agency. (The commission would offer up three names for the governor to select from.) The bill report is here; don’t bother looking at the text of the bill, which doesn’t seem to be the latest version.

It looks like the provision stripping the commission of the ability to regulate commercial fishing is gone, however. But the bill does say that the governor’s pick of a director and commissioners “must be made with the advice and consent of the Senate.”

The amended bill will likely pass the Senate, since it already passed the original version of Jacobsen’s bill. The key moment, presumably, will be when this amended House bill lands back in the House.

Stay tuned.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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