The Arizona Game and Fish Commission began the process in 2012 to propose legislation to allow the Commission to set future license structure and fees (including all licenses types, permits, tags, stamps and watercraft registrations) directly through a streamlined, customer focused process as opposed to the existing complex legislative and rulemaking processes.
The resulting legislation, Senate Bill 1223, was intended to allow the Commission to simplify the license structure, allow the Commission and the Game and Fish Department to operate more like a business, and provide the Commission the flexibility to respond to customer demand and market conditions in a timely manner. Below is information about SB 1223, a timeline of its progress through the Legislature, and responses to some frequently asked questions asked during the process.
Read the informational brochure about the legislation.
View the Chaptered Version of the legislation.
Update (May 7, 2013) - Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1223 into law. The Arizona Game and Fish Department presented its proposed public outreach process to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission at the commission's meeting on Saturday, May 11, 2013 in Kingman, Ariz. The commission approved the process, so the department will now engage in a public outreach effort, including statewide public meetings in May and early June 2013, to solicit input on a conceptual license structure and fees. See the public meeting schedule.
Update (April 15, 2013) - SB 1223 was passed by the Arizona House, by a vote of 43-10 in favor of the bill.
Update (April 8, 2013) - SB 1223 was unanimously passed by the House Rules Committee.
Update (March 11, 2013) - SB 1223 was passed unanimously by the Arizona House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee by an 8-0 vote.
Update (March 6, 2013) - SB 1223 was passed by the Arizona Senate, by a vote of 26-2 in favor of the bill, with the addition of two floor amendments.
Update (Feb. 19, 2013) - SB 1223 was passed unanimously by the Arizona Senate's Appropriations Committee, with the addition of an amendment.
Update (Feb. 6, 2013) - SB 1223 was passed unanimously by the Arizona Senate's Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Commmitte on Feb. 6.
Frequently Asked Questions
During the course of public meetings and outreach about this proposal, constituents have raised a number of questions. The following provides answers to those questions.
Why is this being proposed?
Customers have asked for a simpler license structure. The complexity of the current license structure has been identified as a barrier to hunter and angler recruitment and retention.
The current process for changing license structure is cumbersome and time consuming. The Arizona Game and Fish Department receives no Arizona tax dollars (general fund) and, like a business, operates primarily with revenue it generates. For an agency to operate like a business, it must have the ability to react to changing conditions or customer needs in a timely manner.
Who proposed this?
As mentioned above, the initial impetus started with customers asking for a simpler license structure. In 2011, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved, among others, two “Goals and Objectives” for the Arizona Game and Fish Department Director. One was to secure additional revenue in existing funds using an analytical and business model approach. The other was to develop a simpler license structure, find a way to provide more value to traditional customers, and establish a consistent definition of youth.
The Commission in August 2012 combined these two “Goals and Objectives” into a single one with the following description:
The Department will seek measures to provide the Commission authority and flexibility to fully implement a new basic license structure (including license, tags and permits). The new structure will generate additional revenue in the Game and Fish Fund, be easier to understand, and provide more value to recruit and retain customers.
What groups are supporting this proposal?
The following groups have offered their support of this legislative proposal:
Arizona BASS Federation Nation
Arizona Bowhunters Association
Arizona Deer Association
Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society
Arizona Elk Society
Arizona Flycasters Club
Arizona Outdoor Sports, Inc.
Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation
Arizona Wildlife Federation
The Bass Federation
Desert Christian Archers
Desert Fly Casters
Mogollon Sporting Association
Mohave Sportsman Club
Mule Deer Foundation
National Wild Turkey Federation AZ
Northern Arizona Flycasters
Safari Club International – AZ Chapter
Sportsmen’s Constituent Group
Trout Unlimited – Gila Trout Chapter
Trout Unlimited – Old Pueblo Chapter
Trout Unlimited – Zane Grey Chapter
White Mountain Flyfishing Club
Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club
What is wrong with the current process for establishing or changing license structure?
The current process is complex and time-consuming, and it prevents timely reaction to changing conditions or customer needs. Currently, the Commission needs legislative approval (i.e., passage of a bill) to revise the license structure. If the bill passes, the Commission then must go through a regular rulemaking process to implement the structure. All of this can take three or more years to complete.
If this legislation were to pass, what would be the new process to set license structure and fees?
License structure and fees would be established through a new customer-focused rulemaking process. It would not require passage of a bill through the Legislature, although the Commission would still be under legislative oversight (see below).
How would the new rulemaking process work?
The following processes would be followed dependent on the scenario as listed below:
Scenario 1: For proposed temporary fee reductions (discounts/promotions):
- The proposed action would be on the agenda of a publicly noticed Commission meeting.
- The Commission would discuss the proposed action and provide direction to the Department in the public meeting during which public input would be accepted.
- Upon Commission direction/approval, the Department would then inform the public of the fee reduction and timeframes.
This would allow the Commission to respond to market conditions and implementation of temporarily discounted fees in a timely manner.
Scenario 2: For proposed new products, new fees, or fee increases:
- The proposed action would be on the agenda of a publicly noticed Commission meeting and public input would be accepted at the meeting.
- The Department would present its recommendations to the Commission, which would provide the Department with direction.
- Public outreach would follow the meeting, along with a minimum 30-day public comment period.
- After internal Department review of the public comments, the proposed action would be on the agenda of a second publicly noticed Commission meeting, and public input would be accepted up through the meeting.
- The Department would present its recommendations to the Commission, and the Commission would provide direction.
- Upon Commission approval and determination of the effective date, the Department would file final rules with the Secretary of State and inform the public of the new products or fees.
The process for this scenario is estimated to take approximately six months.
What oversight or “checks and balances” would there be on the Commission regarding its authority to set the license structure and fees?
The proposed legislation contains language that requires the Commission to submit an Annual Report to the Legislature regarding license structure and fees. The legislation also requires that every five years, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee will assign a committee to hold a public hearing and review any changes made under this authority. In addition, other checks and balances include:
- This authority expires July 1, 2019, unless otherwise reauthorized through the Legislature.
- There is a cap (fee limitation) on the total amount of revenue that can be raised from license and watercraft registration fees.
- The Auditor General must perform a financial audit of the Arizona Game and Fish Department by Jan. 1, 2015.
- The Legislature can give or remove any granted authority at any time.
- The Department is still subject to financial or performance audits as directed by the Legislature.
- The Legislature maintains the ability to approve, deny or modify spending authority for any agency.
- The Legislature established the Commission Appointment Recommendation Board, which provides another layer of checks and balances in regards to who the Governor appoints to the Commission.
What are the benefits of the proposed legislation?
There are a number of benefits to the proposed new process, they include:
- Simpler, easier-to-understand license structure
- More than 40 license types that currently exist could be significantly decreased to reduce customer confusion.
- The 13 definitions for “youth” could be reduced to one.
- Better products, increased value
- A 365-day license could be offered rather than an annual license that is only valid for the calendar year.
- Licenses could include stamp privileges - For example, a fishing license might include a trout stamp, two-pole stamp, urban, and Colorado River stamp privileges all rolled into one license
- Bundled privileges would help eliminate confusion customers may have regarding if they possess the correct license.
- Products such as discounted licenses for youth, or unlimited one-day combo licenses, could be implemented more quickly and easily.
- The Commission could react more quickly in response to customer needs, marketing opportunities or biological factors - Examples may include reduced prices for large numbers of leftover tags or temporarily discounting license fees as incentives.
- The proposal would provide the Commission similar to the authority already provided to the Arizona State Land Department, Arizona Department of Water Resources, and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
- Hunter and angler input
- The proposal offers direct customer access and input opportunities with the five-member Game and Fish Commission.
- The Commission would have the ability to be more responsive to customer input in a timely manner.
- The proposal would involve one less layer of government in setting license structures and fees with the Legislature still maintaining oversight of the Commission and Department.
Does this proposal mean fees will be raised?
This legislation will not change license structure or fees by itself, however, it will authorize the Commission to set the license structure and fees through a public process that is responsive to customer needs and current conditions. It is a tool that will allow increased flexibility to provide better products offering more value.
Currently, the Commission already has the authority to raise fees up to the fee ceiling established by the Legislature in 2007. It is important to note that fees have not been raised since 2007. When those fees were established, the Commission made a commitment to sportsmen not to raise fees again for five years. The Commission has exceeded that commitment despite having to navigate the challenges posed by the economic downturn of the past few years as well as the cumulative effect of inflation and increasing costs. Any new structure or fees would not be implemented before 2014.
Fees will likely change - some may be raised and some may be lowered, based on factors such as value, principles of the North American Model, customer input, and Commission direction.
What fees are under consideration to be increased or decreased?
None have been proposed at this time. If the legislation were to pass, all licenses, permits, tags and stamps could be considered for either increases, decreases or bundled privileges that would increase value for the customer. The Commission would encourage members of the public to provide input on what those fees should be during the public input process the Department would conduct following the passage of the legislation. Again, the Commission already has the authority to raise fees up to the fee ceiling established by the Legislature in 2007.
What is the timeline for this proposal?
The Commission/Department is taking this proposal to the Arizona Legislature during the 2013 session for consideration.
What happens if the legislation does not pass?
If the legislation doesn’t pass, the current complex license structure would remain in place and the Commission would not have the ability to respond to customer needs in a timely fashion. The Commission could still raise fees up to the statutory cap established by the Legislature in 2007 under its current authority.
If the legislation passes, will the public be able to see revenue projections from the Department on any license structure and fee proposals?
If the legislation passes, the Department would develop revenue projections based on proposed license/fee structure options and provide an opportunity for public input and comment prior to a Commission decision.
If you combine privileges and eliminate the state duck stamp, what will happen to waterfowl conservation projects?
The legislation does not eliminate the duck stamp necessarily, but rather the fund associated with it. The Arizona duck stamp generates approximately $48,000 annually which is deposited into the Waterfowl Conservation Fund. The Commission could still issue a duck stamp and will continue to fund waterfowl conservation through the regular budgeting process just like elk, deer, antelope, etc. With the exception of the duck stamp and special big game license tags (ARS §17-346), all revenue from the sale of licenses, tags and stamps (such as the trout stamp, two-pole stamp, migratory bird stamp, etc.) are currently deposited into the Game and Fish Fund and not placed into a special fund. Budgets are developed based on Commission priorities, constituent input and biological/management objectives.
What is the Commission's/Department's definition of "benefactor" in the legislation?
The Benefactor license has been in statute since 1992 (see ARS §17-335.01 [D]). A resident lifetime wildlife benefactor class F license (combination general Hunting and Fishing) represents the difference between the cost of the lifetime license and $1,000. The difference is considered a donation and is tax deductable. There are very few of these licenses sold and it provides no additional privileges to the lifetime license. The most that have been sold in a year was 19 in 2007.
With declining revenue, is there any consideration for re-evaluating staffing and resources versus a perception of combining funds for general distribution?
The Commission and Department, like any business, constantly evaluate staffing and resource allocation. The Commission has made numerous budget adjustments which have included keeping positions vacant and making cuts to program budgets.
With the exception of the Arizona duck stamp and special big game license tags (ARS §17-346), all revenues from the sale of licenses, tags and stamps are currently combined in the Game and Fish Fund.
Isn't the current system already "customer focused"?
Although the Commission strives for a customer-focused process, the ability to change license structure or fees may require statutory or rule changes that could take three or more years, which is not very responsive to the customer. The Commission, with this legislation, can shorten that waiting period and allow increased flexibility to better address customers’ needs and market demands.
Couldn't the Commission accelerate some of these proposed changes under the current Rule process, by requesting some changes in the three-year parameter?
No, most, if not all, of the products and revenue associated with these proposed changes require that state law be amended; therefore they cannot be addressed under the current rule process.
Since the Department receives no general fund tax dollars, why not focus on changing some of the parameters that restrict the Commission from acting on matters, particularly those funded by "sportsmen's" dollars?
This legislative proposal is aimed at addressing that exact issue. The Commission’s and Department’s customers are a voluntary constituency that determines if and at what levels they choose to participate. They are not required to participate and they have the ultimate vote with their hard-earned dollars. Given that reality, and the fact that the Department is not a general tax-funded entity, the Commission and Department need to be responsive to constituent desires and concerns regarding opportunities and products. The current statutes do not allow for timely responsiveness with regard to changes to license structure or the ability to provide new services, products and pricing.
Does the bill change the hunter education requirement for big game hunters under age 14?
No, the bill does not change that requirement. Those under 14 (ages 10-13) must complete a department-approved hunter education course by the start date of their big game hunt. That requirement is currently in Game and Fish rule - see R12-4-104(B).
How has the Department involved/informed the public on this proposal?
The Department deployed an extensive outreach campaign from October through December 2012 to inform the public and constituents regarding this proposal and to solicit feedback and support. This campaign includes:
- Public meetings in Tucson, Flagstaff, Pinetop, Kingman, Yuma, Prescott and Phoenix (the Phoenix meeting was also webcast through the Department website)
- A dedicated web page that includes a copy of the proposed legislation, the presentation used during the public meetings, FAQs, other related information
- A dedicated email address for comments and suggestions
- Press releases announcing the public meetings and directing people to the web page
- Meetings with several conservation groups to discuss the proposal
- The Department will continue to update the webpage, including information related to the status of the legislation