Florida Senator Wants to Eliminate State Fishing Licenses

--Chad Love

Everyone knows that much--if not all--of states' funding for fish and wildlife management comes from a combination of excise taxes on sporting gear (Pittman-Robertson and Wallop-Breaux) as well as hunting and fishing license sales. State hunting and fishing licenses are a cornerstone of every state wildlife agency's budget. But a Florida legislator wants to completely eliminate fishing license sales in the Sunshine State.

From this story in the Ft. Myers-Southwest Florida News-Press:
State Sen. Joe Negron doesn't think people should have to pay to fish in Florida. So the Republican from Stuart is sponsoring a bill that would eliminate the state's freshwater and saltwater fishing licenses. If the bill becomes law, the state would be out millions of dollars from license sales and federal money that is used for fishing- and boating-related programs. "I don't believe a citizen should have to get written permission from the government and pay a fee to throw a couple of fishing poles in a truck and head to the beach," Negron said. "That's an intrusion into what is a common activity in Florida. "The question is why do we have fishing licenses? The burden of proof is with the people who want to hassle and annoy citizens by requiring written permission from the government."
_
_Negron also said fishing licenses create extra work for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement officers. "FWC is an important state agency," he said. "They have a lot better things to do than approaching citizens to check their paperwork." About 2.8 million people have Florida fishing licenses; 1.9 million are saltwater licenses. Among other things, FWC uses license fees for fishery research, law enforcement, habitat enhancement, boating access and grants for creating artificial reefs. FWC estimates that eliminating fishing licenses would mean a loss of $32 million -- $23 million from saltwater licenses and $9 million from freshwater licenses.

Wow. That's some, uh, unique thinking on the senator's part. The floor is now open for debate...