Commission votes to oppose HB 2072 (sale of big game tags)
PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously on Jan. 10, 2012 to oppose proposed Arizona House Bill 2072, a bill that would have reserved a large number of big game tags for a “qualified organization” to resell at auction or raffle.
As part of its 5-0 vote to oppose the bill, the commission also directed its representatives to “clearly inform the sponsor and supporters of this bill that our opposition is not just to the bill as written, but to the entire concept of removing or adding any big game tags from the pool of big game tags available for the general public and transferring them to any private organization.”
In discussion leading up to the vote, several commissioners expressed strong concerns over the bill.
“We have a trust responsibility to manage wildlife for all the citizens of this state, and I see some real issues in this legislation that takes part of that away from us,” said Commission Chair Robert Woodhouse. “I think we need to speak on behalf of all citizens of this state.”
Among the concerns commissioners expressed over this particular legislation are which organizations would qualify, how money would be spent, who would benefit, and what accountability there would be over expenditures.
Commissioners pointed out that the proposed legislation differs from current law that authorizes the commission to issue a small number of big game tags to nonprofit organizations dedicated to wildlife conservation. Awarding these tags is through an open and competitive process that allows the organizations to auction or raffle those tags. All the proceeds come back to the Arizona Game and Department for projects that support wildlife management.
“Public trust assets must never be diverted to benefit special interests,” said Commissioner Norm Freeman. “The language of the bill itself is fraught with problems, and the very premise should be discarded in its entirety.”
Chairman Woodhouse also made it clear during the meeting that neither the Arizona Game and Fish Commission nor the department were involved in the crafting of the bill, and this item has never been on a commission agenda.
Nine constituents representing organizations or themselves spoke in opposition to the bill. No constituents addressed the commission in the bill’s favor. Prior to today’s meeting, each commissioner had received many personal expressions of strong opposition from various members of the public.
Prior to the vote, Capitol Consulting, a proponent of the bill, provided material that was made available to the public. The Arizona Game and Fish Department had no part in the preparation of this brochure, nor can the department validate any of the assertions made in the document.
HB 2072 was originally slated for a hearing in the House Commerce Committee on Jan. 11, 2012, but that meeting has since been delayed indefinitely.