OLR Bill Analysis

HB 5875 (as amended by House “A”)*

AN ACT AUTHORIZING SPECIAL DISTRICTS TO MAINTAIN WATER QUALITY IN LAKES.

SUMMARY:

This bill (1) creates a recreational saltwater (marine sport) fishing license and fees, extends requirements similar to those for inland (freshwater) fishing, and adds marine licensing exceptions; (2) sets a baseline for the amount of state land available for hunting; (3) requires sports fishing marine and hunting license fees be used only for fish and game preservation and related activities; and (4) increases the fine, from $ 25 to $ 75, and eliminates prison as a potential penalty, for illegally taking shellfish from the shores, beaches, and flats at “Saugatuck Shores” in Westport.

The bill also expands the list of purposes for which residents may establish special taxing districts to include maintaining a lake's water quality for lakes located solely in one town. Current law allows them to establish districts providing a wide range of public services and infrastructure, including collecting trash and constructing and maintaining drains and sewers.

Residents must comply with the special district statutes when establishing, organizing, and operating a district for lake maintenance. Once established, the bill allows the district to apportion assessment for this purpose equally among property owners.

The bill makes technical and conforming changes.

*House Amendment “A” adds provisions concerning marine fishing licenses, a state-land-for-hunting baseline, ensuring marine fishing and hunting license fees are used for fish and game preservation; increases the fee for illegally taking shellfish in Westport; eliminates changes to flood and erosion control; and modifies how land is assessed concerning a lake water quality special tax district for a lake located solely in one town.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage for the requirement to use hunting and marine fishing license fees for fish and game preservation purposes, the state hunting land baseline, and illegal shellfish taking provisions; June 15, 2009 for marine fishing license and related provisions; and October 1, 2009 for special water quality districts

RECREATIONAL MARINE FISHING LICENSE

The bill establishes, with certain exceptions, a sports fishing marine waters fishing license for anyone over age 16 who takes, attempts to take, or assists in taking any fish or bait species in the marine district by any method or who lands marine fish and bait species in the state, regardless of where the marine fish or bait species are taken (e. g. , anadromous fish species, such as striped bass, swim from saltwater to freshwater to spawn). The law requires a recreational license for inland (freshwater) fishing and a commercial license for commercial fishing in the marine district.

Under the bill, the sports marine license fee is $ 10 for residents and $ 15 for nonresidents. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) commissioner may issue people age 65 and older who have been state residents for at least one year an annual marine waters fishing license for free. The bill requires town clerks to retain a $ 1 recording fee for each marine waters fishing license they issue.

Exceptions

The bill creates several exceptions to the recreational marine water fishing license requirement. The following people do not have to have a license:

1. people rowing a boat or operating the motor of a boat from which other persons are taking or attempting to take fish;

2. anyone fishing as a passenger on a registered party, charter, or head boat operating solely in the marine district; and

3. state residents participating in a fishing derby that the DEP commissioner authorized in writing if, (a) no fees are charged for the derby, (b) it lasts one day or less, and (c) it is sponsored by a nonprofit civic service organization. These organizations are limited to one derby in any calendar year.

One Day, No License. Additionally, the DEP commissioner may designate one day in each calendar year when no license is required for sport fishing in the marine district.

Reciprocity

By law, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York residents may fish for free in certain Connecticut waters without a nonresident license, if their state allows the same (reciprocal) privilege for Connecticut citizens. The bill specifies that this law refers to inland waters that lie both in Connecticut and the reciprocating state. It also creates a reciprocal arrangement for marine water licenses should Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, or Rhode Island enact reciprocal laws or regulations for marine water fishing licenses (none of these states currently has a marine water license). Under the bill, as under current law, residents of other states are subject to other applicable federal or state fishing laws under any reciprocal agreements.

The bill allows any nonresident who resides in the other New England states or New York to obtain this marine license for the same fee or fees as a Connecticut resident if he or she is a resident of a state that has a reciprocal provision that extends the same privilege to Connecticut residents.

STATE LAND AVAILABLE FOR HUNTING

The bill prohibits the DEP commissioner from reducing the amount of state land in one location where hunting is permitted without providing for an equal amount of land elsewhere in the state (i. e. , no net loss of state land where hunting is permitted). The bill establishes a baseline of state land where hunting is permitted as not less than the percentage of such land as of July 1, 2008. (It is not clear how, in certain instances, DEP would know that hunting areas had been lost. For example, new construction on private land bordering state land where hunting is permitted would prohibit hunting in the vicinity. )

USE OF HUNTING AND MARINE FISHING LICENSE FEES

The bill also prohibits diverting hunting license fees for any purpose other than implementing the DEP's charge to protect, propagate, preserve, and investigate fish and game and its administration.

Under current law, the DEP commissioner must use fishing license fees only for the protection, propagation, preservation and investigation of fish and game and administration of the department's related functions. The bill extends this to include fees from the sports fishing marine water fishing license.

BACKGROUND

Related Bill

sHB 6428 (File 777) creates new license requirements and fees for sport fishing in the marine district and adjusts sport fishing license reciprocity with area states accordingly. It exempts from the marine district license requirement (1) anyone who is fishing as a passenger on a registered party, charter, or head boat that operates solely in the marine district and (2) commercial fishers. The bill increases various existing hunting and fishing license fees. It requires annual renewal of the free sport fishing and hunting license for eligible people over age 65. Under current law, the free license is valid for the person's lifetime. The bill prohibits diverting hunting license fees for any purpose other than implementing the DEP's charge to protect, propagate, preserve, and investigate fish and game and its administration.

This bill also lowers, from 0. 10% to 0. 08%, the blood alcohol content level for the offenses of (1) carrying a firearm while intoxicated and (2) hunting while intoxicated

COMMITTEE ACTION

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

16

Nay

3

(03/11/2009)

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

17

Nay

8

(04/14/2009)

Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

44

Nay

0

(04/24/2009)