Yesterday SB 1172 died in the California Assembly Appropriations Committee. Authored by Senator Dutton and Sponsored by COHA, the bill died after being placed in suspense due largely to the fact that it would force CDFG to come up with approximately $3M dollars to replace the money it has misappropriated from user-fee accounts that are supposed to be used for wildlife programs.
Unfortunately the system allowed this to happen without any discussion. The California Outdoor Heritage Alliance sponsored bill was supported by The Mule Deer Foundation, California Deer Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Turkey Federation, California Waterfowl Association, California Houndsmen for Conservation and many other groups totalling over 25 in all. Many of these organizations testified before various Senate and Assembly committees.
The bill had received no negative votes with no visible opposition, but some behind-the-scenes pressure from Safari Club International in the form of a letter of concern submitted by SCI President Dennis Anderson apparently played a role in the process. It is clear that this pressure on legislators finally took its toll on the process.
It is unfortunate that SB1172, a bill that would have supported habitat conservation, came to a premature end. The bill will be reintroduced again next year and – with a determined effort by its supporters - will have another chance to become law. If it does, it will become very difficult for the CDFG to use the approximately $3M in annual user fees, such as deer tag money and fundraising tag money, for anything other than uses described by current California Code.
It is also unfortunate that the California Legislature has saddled the CDFG with unfunded mandates that have put the Administration in a position where it is forced to “rob Peter to pay Paul.” Hopefully, better times are on the horizen.