My first bill wins unanimous committee support

Many people contributed to my first legislative proposal that won the unanimous support of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee recently. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Shaw, worked closely with me throughout the process and did a superb job of leading the discussion at the work session.

The public hearing testimony of Bob Meyers of the Maine Snowmobile Association, who spoke in favor of the section of the bill calling for updating of the agency’s MOSES online licensing and registration system, was helpful.

The IFW Committee’s legal analyst Amy Winston did a superb job of presenting the issues at the work session.

And the work of DIF&W’s Deputy Director Andrea Erskine and Licensing Director Bill Swan was absolutely critical to the success of the bill.

While I’m handing out praise, I can’t leave out the IFW Committee’s clerk, Diane Steward, who has been a great help to me throughout the session and who keeps the committee organized and functioning smoothly.

Of course, the interest, good questions, and support of the members of the IFW Committee were very much appreciated.

So, what’s in the bill? A lot!

Section one begins the process of extending lifetime hunting and fishing licenses to all adults. Right now children and seniors can purchase these licenses which are very popular. Given the tremendous success of this concept, I proposed extending it to all sportsmen. Bill Swan suggested that the first step should be an actuarial study by an independent qualified person, to assure that the new adult lifetime license is priced right. The committee amended the bill, directing DIF&W to arrange for the study that will also reexamine the current fee structure for lifetime licenses to assure they are still appropriate.

Section two proposed allowing the transfer of any-deer permits to any other hunters. Right now we can transfer them to youth and seniors. The committee responded to Bill Swan’s concerns about the proposal by allowing residents to transfer their permits to residents, and nonresidents to nonresidents.

The committee also decided to remove the designation “alien” that appears throughout all of the hunting and fishing laws and to designate those who live outside of the country as “nonresidents.” This was a special concern of Rep. Ellie Espling, who tried to do this last session. Now, only those who don’t live on our planet will be called aliens.

Sections three and four were merged. Section three required the department to organize a task force to figure out how to reduce the complexity of licenses, permits, and registrations now administered by the agency. The committee is working on another of my proposals that would eliminate all hunting licenses and permits in favor of a single hunting license that offers all hunting opportunities. If that bill is enacted, we won’t need this task force. The committee directed DIF&W to consider ways to reduce the number of licenses, permits, and registrations, as it tackled the directive in section four that calls for a plan and budget to update the agency’s MOSES online system.

“It’s all doable,” Swan told the committee. “It comes down to money and time. We don’t spend much (now)” he noted. After asking for more guidance from the committee on what he should focus on, he was told to focus on the customer interface of MOSES. The committee’s House Chair, Mike Shaw, told a somewhat amusing story in his testimony on the bill about a frustrating experience he’d had while trying to buy a license online. The committee clearly wants MOSES to be more customer-friendly, and Swan said he’d work with InformME, the business that is responsible for the MOSES system, to recreate recommendations for the committee’s consideration.

The final section of this bill was designed to encourage DIF&W, and Deputy Commissioner Erskine in particular, to achieve some of the things she told SAM’s Pickering Commission two years ago were needed. Andrea’s support for this, at the work session, was the key to getting it into the bill.

Specifically, Andrea will be creating a plan to simplify and streamline the eligibility requirements for and issuance of complimentary licenses, the laws governing license revocations, and the laws governing hunting including age restrictions, equipment restrictions, and supervisory requirements. Specifically, the plan must extend the supervisory requirements for apprentice hunters to junior hunters and make supervisory requirements for hunting consistent with those that apply to trapping. Essentially, all of this is designed to make these laws consistent over all uses and users.

All of the studies and reports called for in this bill are due back to the committee by December 31, 2013, at which time the committee will have the authority to create a bill to act on the findings and recommendations.

After a very fruitful discussion and exceptional work on the bill, the IFW Committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the full legislature with an “ought-to-pass” recommendation.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.