Throughout the 2018 General Assembly, the voice of the Camo Coalition has played a significant part in promoting the importance of our natural resource and outdoor heritage to our elected officials. But it isn’t over yet.

BE READY. During these last few weeks of the Session, it is critically important to keep track of bills and resolutions as they move through the legislative process. Please read the updates below to several important pieces of legislation we have been actively monitoring, and testifying in favor or opposition when necessary. Watch for Camo alerts in your Inbox — I’m sure we’ll be calling on you for help as this legislative session draws to an end. And, please encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to join the Camo Coalition.

Mike Worley,
President and CEO, Georgia Wildlife Federation

House Bill 275

House Bill 275 was originally introduced as a new proposal that would require a life jacket for people body surfing or wake surfing behind a boat. The bill had passed the Georgia House of Representative and awaited action in the Georgia State Senate.

On March 7, the 31st day of the session and days after “crossover day”, the Georgia Senate stripped all the provisions related to body surfing/wake surfing and substituted language allowing for the shooting of deer over bait across all of Georgia. All of this technical legislative maneuvering occurred while the House Game, Fish and Parks Committee was holding subcommittee hearings on SB 450, which also would allow for shooting of deer over bait across all of Georgia. These maneuverings short-circuit the normal legislative process possibly to prevent — or force — the Georgia House to forego its own deliberative process; to make it easier to approve the shooting of deer over bait statewide.

Georgia Wildlife Federation remains opposed to the shooting of deer over bait. As the reality of Chronic Wasting Disease draws ever nearer to Georgia, it is folly to allow the expansion of baiting while other states are eliminating supplemental feeding and baiting in areas struck by this always lethal, impossible to eradicate disease. A disease that is dramatically impacting deer herds across our country. Some suggest given we haven’t seen this disease in the southern zone since baiting has been allowed for the last few years, that there is no concern. Nothing is further from the truth; every pile of corn, every pile of apples (insert your bait of choice) is simply a time-bomb awaiting an infected deer.

Furthermore, many that promote shooting deer over bait suggest deer are more easily or more quickly taken when hunting over these lures. Numbers, however, seem to point to a different reality.  Some studies indicate a lower success rate for shooting over bait.  In Georgia, the numbers comparing the northern (no baiting) and southern zones (baiting) certainly do not suggest greater shooting success over bait.

GWF opposes HB 275 as it is now written.

Senate Bill 332

Senate Bill 332, originally introduced as a hunting mentorship program, was expanded by the full Senate to include fishing mentorship. It is now referred to as outdoor mentorship.

SB 332 would establish an outdoor mentor education course, directing GaDNR to work on incentives for mentors. It also provides for a one year mentee outdoor passport. Furthermore, it sets the non-resident youth sportsman’s license at $50 per year for young people 15 or under.

GWF supported SB 332 as originally introduced and we believe the changes improve an already good bill.

House Bill 784

House Bill 784 establishes a waterfowl specialty license plate whose proceeds go to GaDNR’s Wildlife Resources Division to promote waterfowl and waterfowl habitat.

The bill has passed the Georgia House of Representatives and the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee. It awaits being placed on the full Senate Calendar and a vote.

GWF continues to support HB 784.

House Bill 950

House Bill 950, as originally introduced, would have extended the deer season and negatively impacted the small game hunter and small game populations. It also established a Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) similar to what we see in other states. You likely saw a Camo Alert in opposition to this bill when it was introduced.

Our input has resulted in changes to this bill that have made it MUCH better. The improvements will mean virtually no impact on small game and small game hunting, but will provide for flexibility for large landowners to develop a property specific plan, in partnership with GaDNR, for managing their deer herd. The only reservation is concern that GaDNR’s support for large landowner Deer Management Assistance Plans do not result in cost subsidization of those landowners by the rest of Georgia’s hunters.  Should HB 950 pass, we will closely monitor the development of the policies and rules associated with DMAP.

GWF is monitoring HB 950.

House Resolution 238 and House Bill 332
Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act

Both of these bills, combined, represent some of the most important conservation legislation in generations in Georgia. The legislative package, which has passed the Georgia House of Representatives and awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The legislation has undergone substantial changes since introduction. Both chambers of the General Assembly have taken these initiatives with the deliberative, thoughtful approach they deserve. The operation of the Georgia Outdoor Trust Fund has received significant attention, providing for more comprehensive oversight of the Fund.

Additionally, the funding mechanism has undergone some restructuring. As is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee, the funding would be a fraction of the state’s general sales and use tax revenue, generating approximately $20M per year for the conservation and stewardship of lands, based roughly on the amount of sales tax generated by hunting, fishing and the wildlife viewing community. The priority areas for protection have remained constant throughout the legislative process.

GWF enthusiastically supports HR 238 and HB 332.

Read the complete Bill Tracker at the Camo Coalition website.

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