Since many Midwestern states have either wrapped up their 2020 legislative sessions or remain suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s States Program Team will be providing brief regional legislative updates over the next few weeks. Below are bills that the Midwest’s regional staff have engaged in during 2020. As more sessions resume, regional staff will continue to monitor legislation, engage with state sportsmen’s caucuses, and interact with our partners to promote priority legislation across the region.
*Indicates that the legislative session has been adjourned for the year.
*Indiana: Sportsmen’s Package (HB 1385)
This bill includes several big wins for Indiana’s sportsmen and women. These wins included the removal of the 2020 sunset on the use of high-powered rifles on private lands. After an extensive study, it was found that the use of high-powered rifles on private land did not have a negative effect on public safety or the deer population. The package also included language that would increase the maximum length of a hunting or fishing license suspension, bringing Indiana more in line with other states when it comes to punishments for wildlife violators. The bill also included language pertaining to access of the Lake Michigan shoreline. It states the shoreline is held in public trust and may be used for walking, fishing, boating, swimming, and any other recreational purpose for which Lake Michigan is ordinarily used, as recognized by the Natural Resource Commission would be allowed. This bill was signed into law by the Governor on March 21.
Iowa: Invest in Iowa Act (SSB 3116 & HSB 657)
Introduced in association with Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Kim Reynolds, the “Invest in Iowa Act” is a tax reform bill that would include a sales tax increase to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. Created in 2010, the trust fund would use a 3/8 of 1% Conservation Sales Tax to supplement the American System of Conservation Funding. Despite enormous support from the sportsmen’s community for funding the Trust, the larger tax bills remain in their original committees and are unlikely to pass this year. However, the Trust will remain a priority for CSF and the sportsmen’s community in Iowa during the 2021 legislative session.
Iowa: Spread of Diseases in Animals (HF 2240)
Introduced by Iowa Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Terry Baxter, House File (HF) 2240 would specifically add Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) to the statutory definition of an “infectious or contagious disease” and grant additional authority to the Iowa Natural Resource Commission to take actions to control the spread of infections or contagious diseases, including CWD. CSF submitted a letter of support to members of the Iowa Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus on March 10. The bill has passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee. Though this bill could receive further consideration once the Iowa legislative session resumes (currently scheduled for June 3), it is unlikely to pass this year due to the lengthy suspension in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the legislative session.
Iowa: Residency for Members of the Armed Forces (SF 280)
Originally introduced by Iowa Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Chris Cournoyer as Senate File 215 (SF 215), Senate File 280 was reintroduced by the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee to amend the definition of a resident to include members of the armed forces, and their spouses, stationed in Iowa or at a military installation that is contiguous to a county in Iowa while the member is living in Iowa. This bill would ensure that all active duty personnel and spouses living in Iowa can take advantage of resident hunting and fishing privileges. SB 280 has passed both chambers and awaits concurrence in the Senate before being sent to the governor.
Michigan: Pheasant License (HB 4313)
This bill would require anyone 16-years-of-age or older to purchase a pheasant stamp. With a cost of $25.00, this stamp would be an addition to the base hunting license that Michigan requires all hunters to buy in order to hunt all other small game species. The $25.00 fee would then be divided across different funds, with 75% supporting the Michigan Pheasant Hunting Initiative and the 25% used for maintaining and expanding pheasant habitat. The Pheasant Hunting Initiative started last year when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources released pheasants at several game areas across the state and held two youth pheasant hunts in the state. This program assists with R3 efforts and encourages pheasant hunting in the State of Michigan. The creation of the pheasant stamp would ensure the program is self-funded by pheasant hunters. HB 4313 passed out of the House on March 17, and is currently in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources
Michigan: Commercial Fishing Regulations (HB 4567-4569)
This package of bills addresses commercial fishing regulations in Michigan’s Great Lakes. The current laws have not been updated since the 1960’s and are in need of modernization. This legislation would protect gamefish from commercial harvest, increase the fines for commercial fishing operations to help pay for the administrative oversight costs, and require better net marking to protect both commercial equipment and to keep recreational anglers and other boaters safer on the Great Lakes. CSF and our partners worked to remove crappie from the list of species eligible for commercial harvest. The package of bills passed the House on February 6. They are currently in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and a hearing was expected in mid-March but has been delayed due to COVID-19.
*Minnesota: Lead Tackle Ban (HF 3825/ SF 3892)
These bills were introduced at the end of February and would have banned the sale, manufacturing, and use of lead tackle for fishing. CSF and our partners submitted a letter of opposition to the committee of Environment, Natural Resources Policy, and Legacy Finance. CSF staff has also reached out to members of the committee to voice concerns. This bill failed to get a hearing before session adjourned.
*Missouri: Prescribed Burn Act (HB 1547 & SB 661)
Introduced at the beginning of the 2020 legislative session, each of these bills would protect landowners and land managers against liability for damages caused by prescribed fires, or the smoke produced by a prescribed fire, if specific requirements are met, unless the landowner or prescribed burn manager are proven to be negligent. Prescribed fires are used to improve habitat conditions for many species of wildlife (including many game species), reduce fuel loads to help mitigate future wildfire risks, and to improve forest health. CSF submitted a letter of support to members of the Missouri Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in early March. Both bills were passed out of committee but failed to make additional progress due to disruptions to the legislative session caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
*Missouri: Conservation Sales Tax Amendments (HJR 107 & HJR 112)
This year, two different bills seeking to amend and reduce Missouri’s 1/8 of 1% Conservation Sales Tax have been introduced. Currently, the Conservation Sales Tax in Missouri generates approximately $120 million annually to the Missouri Department of Conservation, serving as a large supplement to the American System of Conservation Funding and a template for other states interested in incorporating their own Conservation Sales Tax (see Iowa bills above). Fortunately, HJR 107 was removed from further consideration and HJR 112 failed without consideration when the legislature adjourned.
CSF submitted written testimony in opposition of two important bills introduced in Nebraska. LB 863 would cap the amount of land owned by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, thereby limiting their ability to increase public access opportunities. LB 1173 would allow landowners to obtain no-cost hunting permits for deer, elk, and antelope. These permits could then be sold by the landowner for profit, thereby privatizing ownership of wildlife. In the letters, CSF pointed out that these bills could have negative impacts on the American System of Conservation Funding and hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts. Additionally, LB 1173 violates the Public Trust Doctrine of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Following their public hearings, no action is expected to be taken on either bill when the legislative session resumes on July 20 after suspending in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
*Oklahoma: Furbearer and Squirrel Seasons (HB 3496)
Authored by Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative John Talley in the House and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Committee Alternate Member Senator Mark Allen, HB 3496 removes Oklahoma’s furbearers and squirrel seasons from statute and grants the authority to set season dates and lengths for these species to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission (Commission). By setting season dates in statute, the Commission is unable to adjust season dates when necessary to reach population management goals for these species. Since many furbearers do not have daily or seasonal bag limits, the ability to extend or shorten the season for these species is critical to control harvest levels as populations fluctuate. After passing out of the House in early March, this bill did not receive further consideration once the legislature returned to wrap up the 2020 legislative session.
*Oklahoma: Feral Swine Hunting Bill Amended to Give ODWC Authority over Hunting and Fishing Licenses (SB 927)
Originally introduced and passed by the Oklahoma Senate as a bill that would allow the use of night hunting for feral swine on public and private land without a hunting permit, SB 927 was substituted in the House prior to the adjournment of the 2020 legislative session. This substitute replaced the feral swine language with a bill that would grant the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) regulatory authority over the types and prices of the hunting and fishing licenses offered in the state. This substitute was passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives on the final day of the legislative session, failing to make it back to the Senate for consideration before the session was adjourned. However, it is likely to return as a priority in 2021.
*South Dakota: Habitat Stamp Would Generate Additional Money for Conservation (SB 75)
Co-sponsored by South Dakota Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Herman Otten, Senate Bill 75 would create a habitat stamp that “a person eighteen years of age or older shall purchase…when applying for or purchasing a hunting or fishing license. The fee for the habitat stamp shall be ten dollars for residents and twenty-five dollars for non-residents.” This habitat stamp, although another fee on sportsmen and women, is a small price to pay for the extensive habitat work that will result from its implementation. It also emphasizes the role sportsmen and women continue to play in the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and how the public benefits from their contributions. The bill passed both the House and Senate and was signed by the Governor on March 30.
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?