Game and Parks fee increase advances after cloture

After four hours of select file debate April 5, senators advanced a bill that would raise fees that the state Game and Parks Commission is authorized to charge for a wide range of permits, licenses and stamps.

LB745, introduced by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, also would raise the caps on user fee ranges and increase the allowed growth rate for fees the commission is authorized to charge for hunting, fishing and other activities. The fee increases would generate an estimated $2.5 million in fiscal year 2016-17 and a further $5 million in FY2017-18.

Resident fee caps for an annual hunting permit would be raised from $13 to $18 and the cap on an annual fishing permit would increase from $17.50 to $24. The bill would raise the fee cap for a deer hunting permit for residents from $29 to $39.

The minimum fee for an annual park permit for a resident motor vehicle would increase from $25 to $30.

McCollister said some of these fees have not been increased in several years and that unless the commission is allowed to increase them, it will be unable to keep up with the growing costs of maintaining the state’s parks and managing its game animals. Fees generated 87 percent of the commission’s revenue in 2015, he said.

“It’s entirely proper for us to periodically raise these fees so they’re commensurate with the costs,” McCollister said. “We greatly value our parks in this state and we need to make sure that we fund them properly.”

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers filed several motions and amendments in an effort to delay a vote on the bill.

Chambers filed an amendment containing provisions of his LB961, which would repeal the commission’s authority to hold mountain lion hunting seasons. He said the commission could manage the state’s mountain lion populations through methods other than hunting, which Chambers said is cruel and unnecessary considering the small number of animals in the state.

“I’m not against everything Game and Parks could do to try to manage these animals,” he said. “The killing of them I’m opposed to.”

The amendment failed on a 9-26 vote.

After four hours of debate, McCollister filed a motion to invoke cloture, or cease debate and vote on the bill. The motion succeeded 44-4.

Senators then voted 43-3 to advance the bill to final reading.

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