Contact: Clay Chester, Southeastern States Coordinator
Due to COVID-19, the Governor’s signing deadline has been extended to April 18. As of April 6, no anti-sportsmen’s bills have been signed into law, while a number of pro-sportsmen’s bills are eligible for the Governor’s signature.
The Florida Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) led by Co-Chairs Senator Keith Perry and Representatives Bobby Payne and Jayer Williamson, worked with their colleagues in the Caucus, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), and other conservation partners to protect and advance the interests of Florida’s sportsmen and women. The Caucus held their annual dinner in February with the FWCC where issues impacting Florida’s 3.15 million sportsmen and women were discussed.
On March 11, Senate Bill 1414 sponsored by Caucus member Senator Debbie Mayfield, passed the House (120-0) and is currently awaiting action by the Governor. The legislation would expand the statute prohibiting the harassment of hunters, anglers and trappers by extending protections to sportsmen and women on public lands and waters. The legislation would also add the green iguana (Iguana iguana) and the Teguna lizard (any species of the genera Salvator or Typinambis) to the list of exotic invasive species that are prohibited to the possession, importation, sale, barter, trade, or breeding.
Illegal Taking and Possession of Bears
On March 12, House Bill 327 cleared another legislative hurdle when the House concurred in Senate amendments (116-0) and it progressed to the Governor’s desk. The bill would increase the penalties for the illegal taking, possession and sale of black bears. The regulated season for bear has been closed since 1993, except for 2015. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission developed a ten year Bear Management Plan which included input from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation as a member of the Statewide Bear Technical Assistance Group.
Outdoor Sporting Goods Tax Holiday
Caucus member Senator Debbie Mayfield sponsored Senate Bill 1310 which would have established a sales tax holiday for outdoor sporting goods. Specifically, the legislation would exempt the sale of firearms, ammunition, and fishing tackle from sales tax on September 5, 2020. The sales tax waiver would benefit conservation programs in the state via the American System of Conservation Funding by incentivizing the purchase of items that are subject to federal excise taxes. The bill was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration from the Senate Committee on Appropriations on March 14.
Conservation Funding through License Plates
On March 13, House Bill 1135 became eligible for the Governor’s signature. The legislation would authorize specialty license plates for a number of nonprofit organizations, including three sportsmen’s conservation groups. The funding derived from the sale of the plates, with a limitation on the amount that may be used to promote and market the license plates, would benefit the missions and in-state conservation programs of the organizations.
Hunting with Dogs
Over half a dozen dog-related bills were introduced this session, including one particularly troublesome substandard kennel bill, SB 522. None of the bills progressed, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to track legislation that would negatively impact the time-honored tradition of hunting with dogs.
Modern Sporting Rifle and Standard Capacity Magazines
Over a dozen bills were introduced that would have negatively impacted a sportsman’s ability to go afield or use firearms for sporting purposes. These bills would have restricted access to modern sporting rifles while others aimed to limit access to standard capacity magazines and would therefore have negatively impacted state-based conservation efforts in the state through the American System of Conservation Funding. None of the bills advanced to the Governor’s desk.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?