Senior hunting license rules will not change
July 1, 2016
There were a lot of moving parts to House Bill 13, says Michelle Kaelke, Finance and Licensing Supervisor at the Department of Fish and Game (DF&G).
Last month, Senior Voice reported that the bill dealing with the DF&G’s senior licenses set out to raise the age requirement from 60 to 62 years of age and would require that licensees renew their license every three years. After going to print, aides from District 6 Rep. David Talerico’s office called to set the record straight.
“The final draft of HB 137 decided not to raise the age from 60 to 62 or to include the three year renewal,” said Joshua Banks, committee aide for Rep. Talerico’s office.
HB 137 also tightens up language regarding other aspects of the senior license’s age requirements.
“The 65 year age requirement refers to a special type of license,” said Banks. “It’s a version of the senior license, but it’s a proxy license that allows another licensed resident to hunt or fish on behalf of the senior resident holding the 65 year license. It’s a similar license for those with physical or developmental disabilities.”
Additionally, the bill also clarifies that obtaining a license to continue to hunt or fish after turning 60 years of age is required, said Kaelke.
“The prior language was vague as to whether or not a resident senior even needed a license. Now they need a license,” she added.
The proposed changes to raise the age and implement the three year renewal system were added in the House, but were later nixed after the bill was sent to the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Floor before being sent off for the Governor’s signature, said Banks.
“It happened on the last day of session,” he added. “The proposition to change the age requirement was cut out by Senator Anna MacKinnon in the Senate Finance Committee, and the three year renewal was cut out on the Senate floor.”
Last month, Rod Arno, Executive Director of the Alaska Outdoor Council, stated that increasing the age for the free hunting license would demand that senior hunters continue to pay for their licenses for a couple more years, allowing DF&G to generate more revenue and be independent from other state funds in light of the oil crisis.
However, Erin Shine, legislative aide to Senator MacKinnon, said the idea to increase the age from 60 to 62 was not entirely fiscally necessary.
“The Senate Finance Committee wanted to make sure fees were what seemed appropriate, and we wanted to pick an option that would get votes on the Senate floor,” said Shine.
HB 137 not only set out to change requirements for the senior licenses, but also sought to adjust license and trapping fees across the board in order to bridge the gap between actual revenue brought in by the license and tag fees and DF&G’s management needs.
“We were making lots of changes with the license fees. Every committee looked at fees within the state and out of state fees, and Finance (committee) definitely looked at tag fees and license fees,” added Shine.
Although the age increase was getting a lot of support from various user groups and individual licensees, said Shine, the Senate felt that residents have come to expect becoming eligible for their senior license at 60.
“We heard both sides of the argument,” said Shine. “Some testified saying they would happily pay for five more years of hunting and fishing services. Some testified to say that having to wait longer for the free license would make it harder to go hunting, with their grandchildren, for instance.”
The three year renewal was initially proposed by DF&G and was meant to be a way to track who was actively using their senior license, mentioned Arno in last month’s article.
“There are actually 105,000 senior licenses currently being used in the state rather than the 20,000 mentioned in the other article,” adds Kaelke. “Fish and Game currently does not have a way to track which licenses are being used, so we had asked that a potential renewal be included in HB 137.”
Additionally, there had been rumors of abuse regarding the lifetime license, said Banks.
“We’ve heard that people might be establishing themselves as Alaska residents to obtain their senior license, and then moving to a warmer place for the winter and only coming back to Alaska to fish or hunt in the summer,” he added. “Adding in the renewal system would make sure that people aren’t using the license for free when they’re no longer residents.”
On the other hand, Shine said that that may not necessarily be a true concern for the DF&G.
“It’s definitely possible, but it’s not enough of a concern that people are really doing that,” added Shine. “There’s not solid data to confirm that that’s what’s going on here.”
“Bills change with almost every committee they go to,” added Shine. “In the end there were multiple amendments for the age to stay status, and there was little debate over keeping the renewal on the Senate floor. The decision to take it out of the bill was unanimous.”