Legislative Notebook: Epps gets hearing on $2 million wildlife bill

February 11, 2014 

Next week, state Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, will try and convince a House committee to channel $2 million from special wildlife car tags to, well, wildlife.

Right now, when someone buys the conservation tags for nongame endangered wildlife, trout or bobwhite quail, most of the $35 special tag renewal fee goes to the state bank account.

Epps’ bill would flip that, cutting the fee to $25 and sending $20 per tag to land acquisition and other land management and habitat programs for those animals.

There’s no state appropriation for comparable wildlife conservation now, Epps said.

He said he understands that opponents will argue that the $2 million annually is necessary for the state’s general fund. But Epps also said spending state money on conservation will draw in matching federal funds.

Also, “it’s a response to the severe decline in tags” that are sold. It went from a high of about 550,000 to 150,000 today.

Part of the decline in sales of some specialty tags is the growing public awareness that as little as $10 of special car tag fees goes to the foundations that buyers want to support.

The House Motor Vehicles Committee plans the hearing on House Bill 730 at its next meeting, to be scheduled once the weather clears.

OK to shoot by the road if ...

By a 153-2 vote, the state House agrees that people should be able to discharge a firearm within 50 yards of a road, if there’s a good reason.

The good reasons include the existence of a firing range near a road, according to House Bill 773 by state Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella.

Dickey said he’d been made aware that there are such facilities near roads across the state, so the bill removes any possible legal questions over their operation.

The bill now moves to the state Senate.

Big money rolls into state Senate election

How much does a state Senate election cost?

More than $70,000 is in play so far in the election this year for state Senate District 18, which includes all of Monroe, Upson, Crawford and Peach counties, plus parts of Bibb and Houston.

Macon attorney John Kennedy had raised some $51,000 as of Jan. 31, according to the latest state campaign finance disclosures.

Thomaston physician Spencer Price had raised some $22,000 as of the same date.

Republican Cecil Staton has announced his retirement from the Legislature, so it’s the first time in 10 years that a wannabe west side Senator faces no incumbent.

Separately, former Macon City Council president and former state Sen. Miriam Paris is officially challenging fellow Democrat David Lucas for the east Macon state Senate district that runs all the way to Hancock County.

It will be the third contest between them. So far, they are tied at one all.

Her campaign account shows no funds as of Jan. 31, but she’s done well at the fundraising game previously.

Lucas, as a current officeholder, is barred from raising funds during the 40-day legislative session.

Primaries are May 20.

-- Compiled by Maggie Lee

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