Aug 30, 2022

Updates from CWA's advocacy team

By Mark Hennelly, Vice President for Advocacy 

Presented by Federal Premium ® Ammunition

(Originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of California Waterfowl.)

Youth outdoor camps regulation bill gutted

In response to opposition from CWA and other groups, AB 1737 (Chris Holden, D-Pasadena), which would have placed burdensome registration, fee, operation and other requirements on youth recreational camps, was essentially gutted.

The bill now only requires that the state develop a plan of regulating such camps for safety purposes and then report back to the state Legislature. A new bill would then have to be introduced and passed to implement any plan.

The original bill created far too many new requirements, including paperwork and costs, especially for small nonprofits like CWA and other hunting groups to comply with. Many youth outdoor camps would likely have been eliminated had it passed.

For example, the original AB 1737 required each camp to annually register and then be subject to an unspecified fee to cover the cost of both registration and random, unannounced inspections. It also mandated that each camp ensure a full-time adult health supervisor charged with health supervision to be available on the camp premises whenever campers are present.

The bill additionally imposed new training for camp staff, and it required the development of both emergency and operational plans, which would have to then be approved by local fire departments. Lastly, AB 1737 required that camp staff become mandated reporters, effectively creating new liability.

CWA reminded state legislators and staff that in addition to all of the extra staff time and paperwork, the expenses incurred under AB 1737 – if they didn’t shut down a camp entirely – would then necessarily either be passed onto the participants (many of whom are already struggling to afford the camp experience), or be absorbed by the nonprofit, which typically operates on a very limited budget.

Fortunately, the Legislature largely agreed with us and recognized AB 1737 as overkill. If the amended AB 1737 passes and is ultimately signed by the governor this year, the report back to the Legislature is not due until 2024, so there will likely not be any new legislation on this subject until at least then.

CWA joins national hunting groups to oppose Pittman-Robertson Act repeal

Federal legislation was recently introduced which would gut arguably the most important wildlife conservation funding mechanism for hunters in the U.S.

HR 8167 (Andrew Clyde, R-Georgia), dubbed the RETURN (Repealing Excise Tax on Unalienable Rights Now) Our Constitutional Rights Act, would repeal the federal Pittman-Robertson (PR) Act, which places an excise tax on sporting arms, munitions and archery equipment to fund wildlife conservation projects by state fish and game agencies.

Established in 1937, the PR Act has generated billions in funding, benefitting both game species and sportsmen, and is considered a cornerstone of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. In California, PR funds are used primarily to support the operation and maintenance of state wildlife areas (including managed wetland habitat), which are a critical provider of public waterfowl hunting opportunities. Funds also support hunter education and help fulfill Hunting Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) goals and objectives. In 2022, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) was authorized to receive over $35 million in PR grant funds.

California Waterfowl has joined Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited and many other hunting and conservation groups as part of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP) against anti-PR efforts like HR 8167. As part of our lobbying effort, CWA activated our Voter Voice grassroots action system, which, as of this writing, has already generated over 1,500 messages to our California Congressional Delegation.

Junior hunter age extension bill advances

California Waterfowl has joined several other hunting groups to support SB 865 (Bill Dodd, D-Napa), which would expand the junior hunting license age eligibility back to 17 for another 5-year trial period. CWA sponsored the original legislation, AB 1709 (Jim Frazier, D-Oakley) in 2014, which created the first 5-year trial period for expanded junior licenses. In testimony before the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on June 20, CWA argued that SB 865 would help introduce more kids to the outdoors and is fully consistent not only with DFW’s R3 efforts, but also the Governor’s 30 by 30 Initiative, which seeks to increase public access and enjoyment of California’s natural resources.

We also stressed that the bill would significantly reduce costs for 16- and 17-year-olds, many of whom haven’t started working yet and thus don’t have much in the way of financial resources. Because of existing exemptions for junior license holders, 16- and 17-year-olds under SB 865 would just need to purchase a junior license, which only costs $14. Other than a federal duck stamp, no other stamp costs would be incurred for gamebird hunting, while access would be free to Type A and B wildlife areas.

We also reminded committee members that for waterfowl hunters, the federal definition of a youth hunter is someone 17 years old and under.

SB 865 would thus align both the state and federal youth hunting ages and thus help reduce confusion. SB 865 passed the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee 13-0 and will next be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Gun control legislation heats up at State Capitol

Earlier in June, the governor signed AB 2571 (Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D-Orinda) that provides for $25,000 in civil penalties for each offense for the marketing or advertising to youth of firearm-related products. CWA and other groups had lobbied against the bill in the weeks leading up to its passage, but to no avail. This new law, which took effect immediately, not only negatively affects firearm and ammunition manufacturers, but also conservation-related nonprofit hunting groups like CWA. In response, CWA has been forced to significantly modify the marketing of our youth camps and other services and products to youth hunters.

The California Rifle and Pistol Association and others recently initiated a lawsuit requesting an immediate injunction against AB 2571. In addition, CWA and other hunting groups are discussing the possibility of clean-up legislation with members of the State Legislature and the governor's office that would reduce the law’s scope and impact.

Despite passing a number of gun control measures in June, including another bill, SB 915 (Dave Min, D-Irvine) that CWA and other hunting groups opposed, which would ban the sale of firearms or ammunition on state property including wildlife areas, the California State Legislature is still considering others that would significantly impact hunters and the sporting industry.

These additional pieces of legislation will be taken up when the Legislature reconvenes from its summer recess in August and most notably include:

  • AB 1227 (Marc Levine, D-Marin County), which would place an additional 11% tax on sporting arms and munitions to fund gun violence prevention programs.
  • SB 505 (Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley), which would require gun owners to purchase liability insurance.
  • SB 1384 (Dave Min, D-Irvine), which would require a licensed firearm dealer to have a digital video surveillance system on their business premise and would require that dealer to carry a policy of general liability insurance, as specified.

California Waterfowl and other hunting and sporting interests are strongly opposing these three measures as either barriers to hunter participation or unreasonable regulation of firearms dealers, and recently spoke against them at hearings at the Capitol.

In addition, our electronic grassroots alert to our members on AB 1227 generated over 3,300 opposition messages to assembly and senate members.