Sacramento could revisit Fish and Game’s ‘Strategic Vision’ bill

SACRAMENTO — A proposal to monitor California Fish and Game Commission’s progress of implementing its Strategic Vision fizzled shortly after earning enough votes to get out of the State Assembly. Legislators could well re-consider the proposal yet again, as Assembly Bill 1617 (AB 1617) is on the docket of bills to be revisited in January 2018.

AB 1617, which was introduced by Assembly member Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, in February, specifically proposed a stakeholder advisory group be appointed onto the Fish and Game Commission in order to monitor the agency’s Strategic Vision implementation.

The state Natural Resource Agency’s secretary, according to the bill’s language, would make the appointment.

Assembly members approved AB 1617 by a 56-20 vote in late May and was set for a State Senate hearing in July; the hearing was canceled at Bloom’s request, according to the bill’s published history.

A legislative update offered to Fish and Game Commission members at their December meetings in San Diego indicated AB 1617 could be back on the docket once the calendar flips to 2018.

An intention of the proposed oversight would require the appointed task force to provide state officials with an update on the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (DFW) unfunded mandates.

“The DFW has an annual operating shortfall of $20 million in its Fish and Game Preservation Fund (FGPF) non-dedicated account,” the most recent legislative analysis of AB 1617 stated. “In the January budget, the Governor proposed to address the annual operating shortfall primarily through increased commercial fishing landing fees, and from a one-time shift of funds from a trust account funded by lifetime hunting and sport fishing licenses.

“The likelihood of the Governor’s proposal or some other approach moving forward is not known at this time. The proposal would not solve all of the operating shortfall long term, and the Administration acknowledges in their proposal that further permanent solutions will be necessary,” the Assembly’s legislative analysis continued.

Establishing a task force to oversee the commission’s implementation of its Strategic Vision would cost the Natural Resource Agency $50,000, according to AB 1617’s legislative analysis.

A legislative action in 2010 required the Natural Resource Agency to develop a Strategic Vision for DFW and the Fish and Game Commission. Development of the vision was completed in 2012. Legislators and state officials enacted the Strategic Vision to enhance the management and protection of California’s fish and wildlife.

“A component of the plan focused on stewardship being dependent upon stable, adequate funding,” the legislative analysis for AB 71 stated. “Specifically, the vision stated that there is widespread agreement that issues related to funding are the most in need of change and reform, and recommended that a future process be established that can focus on this issue.”

AB 1617 earned the support of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee prior to it approval by the entire lower house in late May.

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