UPDATE, 3/11: Victory! (at least for now). Chairman Jerry Weiers (R-Glendale) has pulled this bill from the agenda today, meaning it is likely dead this year.
PHOENIX -- As an Arizona hunter, I'll be voting no on the unneeded and unwise HB2235 Wednesday in the AZ House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee (MAPS). I support the current Arizona Game and Fish Commission appointment process that has worked well to protect the public interest for 80 years.
HB 2235 is proposed legislation that would amend an existing law concerning the qualifications and appointment process for Game and Fish Commission membership. The Commission voted unanimously at its meeting on Jan. 23 to oppose this bill and voted unanimously on Feb. 23 to oppose proposed language that might amendment the bill.
Some of the provisions of the bill, if it were to pass as originally written, are that all future Commission members would be required to have a continuous recorded registration with the same political party or as an independent for at least 5 years immediately preceding the appointment, must have also held a valid hunting or combination hunting and fishing license for at least 5 years immediately preceding the appointment, and must have been an Arizona resident for at least 10 years. (It should be noted that this bill sets a more restrictive residency standard than exists for Legislators or for most other elected officials in Arizona, including Governor). The original draft legislation would also require that all applications for appointment to the Commission be available for public inspection not later than the second week in December.
The Commission’s reasons for opposing the bill were articulated in an e-mail communication sent out to constituents on Jan. 26. They included:
As originally written, the bill would prevent an individual from being an eligible applicant who had been a long time-purchaser of a hunting license but, for any reason, missed purchasing a license during the five years prior to becoming a candidate. This would prevent anyone serving as a Commissioner who was unable to purchase a license due to economic or health reasons, family circumstances, or being out of state for a period of time, such as a member of the U.S. military who might be deployed overseas.
The draft legislation would prevent the Governor from making an appointment except from candidates that submitted applications prior to the second week in December. If the Governor didn’t call for applications until after the second week in December, or if a current Commissioner was unable to continue serving their term and resigned, the Governor would be unable to appoint a new Commissioner until the following December.
No specific skills, knowledge or qualifications are required of an individual who has purchased a hunting or combination hunting and fishing license that aren’t already required by the existing statute. The current law states that Commission members be “well informed on the subjects of wildlife and requirements for its conservation”.
Although the Commission is aware that some amendments may be proposed to this bill, the Commission hasn’t seen anything that would warrant changing a system that has worked well for the interests of Arizona’s wildlife and its citizens for 80 years. The Commission understands the critical role sportsmen play in funding wildlife conservation. It also believes that Arizona’s wildlife belongs to all its citizens, each of whom has a responsibility to help fund conservation. This bill would be overly restrictive in who could be eligible to serve as a Commissioner (the standard would be more restrictive than currently exists for most public offices in Arizona), and would unnecessarily change a long-standing system.
As a proud conservation-minded Arizona hunter, I'm voting no on HB2235 and I urge other MAPS committee members to please join me.
- adapted from AZGFD Commission