SB589 (DFG Transparency Bill) – Terminated by Governor

Yesterday was a down day for those who worked hard to put SB589 on the Governor’s desk. That’s where the bill died for the second year in a row. At least this year the Governor gave a reason, however lame. Here’s what Mark Hennelly, Vice President of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance had to say about the Governor’s action, “Hi all.  In case you didn’t see SB 589 was vetoed.  See veto message http://gov.ca.gov/pdf/press/2009bills/SB589_Harman_Veto_Message.pdf 

 Can’t say I agree with the Gov’s reasoning (e.g. bill increases complexity and reduces DFG’s flexibility) as SB 589 would have actually simplified things by saying exactly how the stamp/tag monies would have to be spent, increasing transparency and consolidating existing big game accounts into a single account.  As for the argument that the bill is redundant of DFG’s effort to post budget info on the internet, there is currently no detailed list of completed projects for all big game species that I can find on the Department’s website, only general budget info with no meaningful detail.

In some ways the veto is very surprising, given that is passed the Legislature almost unanimously, DFG and the Resources Agency were OK with it, and the Department of Finance had removed its opposition.  Our author, Senator Harman, was also not notified prior to the veto (which is standard practice with members of the same party). On the other hand, the state would have had to take $3 million (which is the amount our game programs are being ripped off according to the Assembly Appropriations Committee) to backfill DFG’s budget from the General Fund or other sources, which is not good given the State’s ongoing budget deficit.

Regardless, I wanted to thank you all your efforts on this and urge you not to get discouraged.  Sometimes bills are more about timing than anything else and we will definitely run this bill again at the appropriate time in the future.  In the meanwhile, we plan to oppose any effort to raise fees for over the counter license tag/stamps or hunter application fees until it can be definitely shown that the monies are used appropriately.”

It’s sometimes not a great idea to spout off while you’re POed, but I’ll do it anyway, because (after years of restraint) I’m very tired of being diplomatic about this topic.

Due to a lack of accountability for funds raised, some organizations have already stopped supporting the sale of California Big Game Fundraising tags (RMEF). If the state is unable to provide proper over site for these types of dedicated accounts, other conservation groups will probably follow. A lack of support for the sale of these tags would be a shame, but the funds derived from these sources are minor when looked at in the scope of the state budget.

Because the law places user fees (money obtained through the sale of hunting stamps and tags)  in a different category than taxes, and management of these CDFG dedicated accounts (which are mostly derived from the aforementioned  user fees) should be a no-brainer to manage, however as is often the case, government has managed to turn this into a untraceable quagmire – and now the governor has validated what many of the fee payers suspected. What he really said in his veto message was that keeping the public out of the picture makes their job easier and administration of the fund without oversite increases their flexibility to do what they want with the money – even if it’ violates the intent of the law.

Sad to say, but poachers and tax cheats probably justify their actions  in a similar manner.

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