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Fish, Boat commission may set fees

HARRISBURG — The Legislature has passed a bill giving the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission authority to set its own licensing fees, putting a perennial issue to rest at least for now.

House Bill 808, approved last week by the House 157-44 and the Senate 44-5, would let the commission establish fees for the various categories of fishing and boating licenses. The bill is headed to Gov. Tom Wolf, who is expected to sign it.

Sponsored by Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Dauphin, House Bill 808 would end the longstanding practice where the Legislature directly sets fees for the PFBC by passing a bill.

The bill, however, includes something different from previous versions — a sunset clause giving the PFBC an initial three-year window to set fees until 2025.

The Legislature can then review how the commission has handled its new authority in this matter.

“This three-year period will be a time to determine whether the commission can uphold its financial responsibilities to the fishing and boating enthusiasts across the commonwealth,” said Mehaffie.

The Legislature would have the power under the bill to reject a fee change through a concurrent resolution process.

The commission would be required to hold two separate public meetings on any fee change proposal.

There will be no change in license fees until at least 2022, PFBC spokesman Michael Parker said Monday.

“At this time, we anticipate that in 2022, a fee increase of no more than $3 per resident fishing license would be appropriate,” he said.

The commission has long sought authority to set its own fees with a key argument being it is an independent agency that relies on fee revenue, not the taxpayer-supported General Fund, for its operations.

But lawmakers have been reluctant in recent years to approve fee hikes for the commission despite increases in operating costs.

The current fish and boat fees were set in 2005 by lawmakers.

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