Fishing license reform bill placed on Suspense File

Proposal to change calendar system to 12-month structure will be revisited Sept. 1.

SACRAMENTO — Anglers hoping for California’s legislators to reform the state’s fishing license system will have to wait a few weeks before knowing a final result as the Assembly’s Committee on Appropriations placed Senate Bill 187, or SB 187, on the Suspense File, July 19.

Bills on the Suspense File are set aside for further review later in the legislative process. Appropriations committee members place such bills aside whenever the proposals have a fiscal impact.

SB 187 will remain on Suspense File through Sept. 1, when it will be deliberated further.

State Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, introduced SB 187 earlier this year; it was his third attempt in recent years to convert California’s fishing license system from a calendar to 12-month cycle.

Nearly two-dozen states offer 12-month fishing licenses to anglers, meaning a recreational fisher can have an active license for a full 12 months.

California’s fishing licenses are active between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 each year – for the same price regardless of when purchased. Accordingly an angler hoping to purchase a fishing license in, say, August or September would actually have greater incentive to wait until the end of the year to make such a purchase.

Switching from a calendar system to 12-month cycle could result in increased fishing participation within California, according to Berryhill and fishing advocates.

The effect of changing the licensing calendar is up for debate, according to the Committee on Appropriations’ July 17 legislative analysis.

“According to [Department of Fish and Wildlife], who surveyed states that implement a year-to-date fishing license structure, each state experienced a significant decline in license sales,” the July 17 legislative analysis stated. “The decline was attributed to changes in license purchasing behavior. Anglers in these states tended to wait to purchase a fishing license until right before they went fishing. After each license expired, they often waited to renew their license until they fished again. This delay in purchasing results in fewer license purchases.”

The analysis continued such behavior is most common in states with above average to high fishing license fees, which could be bad news for California.

“This change in purchasing behavior was most pronounced in states that have relatively high sport fishing license fees. California sport fishing license fees are among the highest in the nation and would likely experience a large decline in sales,” the analysis stated.

Angling proponents, however, believe a 12-month fishing license system would actually benefit the state and not be a financial burden, the legislative analysis pointed out.

“The author and supporters of the bill believe the value added by the year-to-date structure will encourage sales and result in an increase in revenue,” the analysis stated. “They note that each of the states’ declines in sales can be attributed to other factors such as hurricanes and droughts. They further assert that previous amendments delay implementation of the new license structure to allow DFW to update the licensing during a regularly scheduled update, thus reducing the costs.”

Legislators are currently on recess and return to the capitol Aug. 21 and would revisit SB 187 on or after Sept. 1.

Current proposals in this year’s legislative cycle must be approved and sent to the governor’s desk by Sept. 15. Gov. Jerry Brown would have until Oct. 15 to sign or veto any legislation arriving on his desk by Sept. 15.


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