By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol reporter—
The Senate on March 27 passed a bill that would allow sports people to continue to purchase hunting and fishing licenses electronically even during a state government shutdown.
Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, saw his bill pass on a bipartisan 41-24 vote.
He depicted the results of last summer’s state government shutdown as inflicting avoidable pain on state resort owners and the Department of Natural Resources, which sold some 20,000 fewer nonresident fishing licenses last summer than normal, he explained.
DNR officials estimate the agency lost about $2 million in fishing license sales last summer.
They cite the loss as one of the pressures on the financially reeling fish and game fund.
“I am hopeful that Governor (Mark) Dayton will sign this bill, ensuring one of Minnesota’s greatest resources and attractions, the Great Outdoors, is legally accessible regardless of the circumstances our state government is facing,” said Gazelka in a statement after passage of the so-called Freedom to Hunt and Fish Act of 2012.
Indeed, Gazelka, citing the Right to Hunt and Fish constitutional amendment approved by state voters in 1988, argued on the Senate floor that making hunting and fishing licenses unavailable for purchase violated the state constitution.
But some Senate Democrats view Republicans addressing the threat of state government shutdowns in a wrongheaded manner.
“This is another bill where we’re expecting government not getting its work done,” said Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights.
The sentiment was echoed by other Democratic senators.
But Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, argued the license legislation was necessary.
“To lose that kind of revenue is irresponsible,” he said.
“It just seems to make good sense,” Ingebrigtsen said of the bill.
Companion legislation is carried in the House by Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker.