Four area reps supported increasing license fees

<p class="p1">BATON ROUGE — Four Southwest Louisiana House members voted for a change in the state’s wildlife fees that was designed to help the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries recoup a portion of the $65 million it has lost because of budget problems since 2009.</p><p class="p3">However, the legislation will have to be reconsidered because Monday’s 54-27 vote was 16 shy of the 70 votes (two-thirds) needed because it required an increase in fees.</p><p class="p3">Fees have not been raised since 2000.</p><p class="p3">Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, was sponsored of House Bill 687. It would have raised $6.8 million per year for the department that has to depend on funds from fees, permits and oil and gas resources to pay its expenses. The department doesn’t rely on general fund revenues. The legislation would have consolidated the number of licenses from 117 to 39. </p><p class="p3">A resident’s hook-and-line fishing license would have gone from $2.50 to $5. A basic fishing license would have increased from $9.50 to $13.50. The basic hunting license would have gone from $15 to $20. The Sportsman’s Paradise license plate for residents, which pays for hunting and fishing privileges, would have decreased from $100 to $90. A lifetime hunting and fishing license would have dropped from $1,000 to $800.</p><p class="p3">The LDWF website reported there are about 709,000 licensed fishermen and about 326,000 licensed hunters in the state.</p><p class="p3">Reps. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles; James Armes, D-Leesville; A.B. Franklin, D-Lake Charles; and Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings, voted for the bill. Reps. Stephen Dwight, R-Moss Bluff, and Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, were opposed.</p><p class="p3">The vote had 24 House members recorded as absent. Among them were Reps. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur; Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek; and Frank Howard, R-Many. Hill is on medical leave.</p><p class="p3">Zeringue put off a vote on the bill on three occasions — April 5, 12 and 19 — in an effort to satisfy concerns expressed by some House members. Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, was an outspoken opponent. He said it makes more sense to change the number of licenses and look at the fees in two years.</p><p class="p3">“This is a fee increase,” Miguez said in committee. “The description of this bill isn’t accurate.”</p><p class="p3">Jack Montoucet, secretary of LDWF, at that time said Miguez was upset because the department was closing an office in his area and consolidating it with the Lafayette office, according to a report by The Associated Press.</p><p class="p3">“You’re the one who preaches about cutting government, but when it happens in your backyard you’re against it,” Montoucet said.</p>

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