Federal Policy Updates
CSF Continues to Urge the Passage of Robust Conservation Package
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) continues to urge the House of Representatives to pass H.R. 925, the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, as currently written. CSF sent an action alert to Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members in the House urging them to prioritize this important legislation. CSF continues to coordinate with CSC Members to advance H.R. 925 out of the House and to the President’s desk for signature. Furthermore, on January 23, CSF and 55 other sporting-conservation organizations sent a letter to House Leadership in support of the swift passage of this bill, which passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan voice vote on January 9. H.R. 925 builds off of conservation successes earlier in the 116th Congress including S. 47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, and most recently the FY20 funding bills, which included robust funding levels for many important conservation programs as well as a longstanding priority known as Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund. The bill awaits to be scheduled for a floor vote in the House.
State Policy Updates
Iowa: Bill Introduced to Fund Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund
On February 5, the Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee, in association with Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Kim Reynolds, introduced Senate Study Bill (SSB) 3116, commonly referred to as the “Invest in Iowa” Act. The Iowa House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee followed suit on February 6th with the introduction of House Study Bill (HSB) 657.
Though the entire bills are part of Gov. Reynolds’ vision for tax reform in Iowa, the Invest in Iowa Act includes a 1% increase in the Iowa state sales tax. Of this, 3/8 of 1% will be dedicated to funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund (Trust), a top priority for sportsmen and other conservationists in the state. Based on recent estimates, this would result in around $170 million in dedicated funding to address conservation priorities in Iowa.
The Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund was created by a constitutional amendment approved by Iowa voters in 2010 with more than 63% of voters approving of the Fund. Designed to provide a sustainable dedicated funding source for the benefit of Iowa’s water quality, soil productivity, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation. Recent polls by the Iowa Water and Land Legacy (IWILL) indicate that support for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund and an associated sales tax increase remains high at nearly 70% of voters surveyed. However, the Iowa Legislature has not yet approved the sales tax increase needed to fund the Trust. SSB 3116 and HSB 657 also include proposed changes to the original trust fund allocation formula to reflect the Governor’s prioritization of water and soil quality improvements.
The proposed 3/8 of 1% sales tax represents the latest proposed Conservation Sales Tax in the Midwest Region, joining states like Arkansas, Missouri, and Minnesota. There, state wildlife management agencies receive a portion of collected sales tax revenue as a sustainable complement to funds generated by the American System of Conservation Funding.
“Prescribed Burn Act” Bills Introduced in Midwest
Introduced at the start of Missouri’s 2020 Legislative Session, House Bill 1547 and Senate Bill 661 would add protections for landowners and managers for unintentional damages caused by prescribed fires, or the smoke produced by a prescribed fire by defining the liability standards that landowners must meet. These bills also provide extra protections for landowners who utilize prescribed fire at the direction of a burn plan written and executed by a certified prescribed burn manager.
Protections for landowners who seek to use prescribed fire as a land management tool are often necessary to overcome perceived liability risks, a significant barrier that often prevents the use of prescribed fire. One of the most effective management tools available to landowners, prescribed fires are used to improve habitat conditions for many species of wildlife (including many game species), reduce fuel loads to help mitigate future wildfire risks, and improving forest health. In both bills, the authors acknowledge that prescribed burning is a tool that benefits public safety, the environment, and the economy.
New Hampshire: CSF Staff Works to Oppose Over-Burdensome Kennel Legislation
On January 16, Joseph Mullin, New England States Coordinator for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), attended a House Environment and Agriculture Committee hearing in Concord, NH, to testify in opposition to House Bill 1389 (HB 1389) – legislation that requires a dog owner to construct a specific shelter if the dog is “outside and unattended” for more than 30 minutes.
HB 1389 removes a dog owner’s sovereignty with regards to caring for their canine, and instead institutes an arbitrary list of kennel conditions if the dog is “outside and unattended for more than 30 minutes.” Sportsmen and women would be required to build a wind-proof, moister-proof, and specific sized kennel for their dog if left unattended outside for more than 30 minutes, but these same shelters would be insufficient when the weather dips below 32-degrees or above 90-degrees Fahrenheit. Sportsmen already exercise great care towards the kennels that they provide their dogs, understanding that their dog’s health and well-being is a key element towards its success.
Ultimately, when the bill was raised, the Committee decided to push the hearing back to a later date, as a result of the large number of individuals waiting to voice their opinion on the issue and the fact that the Committee hearing was already running well behind schedule. CSF was able to submit its written testimony at the time of the hearing, returned to Concord to testify against the bill in person on January 28. CSF’s Mullin was joined by sportsmen and women from across the state who travelled to the Capitol to speak to the negative implications that HB 1389 would have on their livelihoods and recreational pursuits. CSF provided strong written and oral testimony in opposition to this bill, and on February 7 the Committee returned a favorable report of “Ought not to Pass” which resulted in the bill being defeated on the House floor on February 19.
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