Legislators’ feud with director holds up fish funding
PHILADELPHIA — Of all the sources of discord in Harrisburg, trout usually isn’t one of them.
But a proposal to increase fishing-license fees has turned into a dispute that has lawmakers hoping to oust the head of the Fish and Boat Commission.
Without the long-sought fee increase, Commission Director John Arway said last fall, some state hatcheries would have to close — meaning 240,000 fewer fish in state-stocked streams and lakes next year. But some lawmakers perceived the cost-cutting announcement as a threat to leave their hometown waters empty of stocked trout.
Now, lawmakers want Arway out and say they won’t pass the bill allowing the commission to raise prices until he’s gone.
“Even if the cure for cancer was within that licensing bill, I don’t think there would be the motivation for the members of the committee or the House to pass it,” said House Game and Fisheries Chair Keith Gillespie, a Republican of York.
He and his counterpart in the Senate both said they will pass the fishing bill only if they can pass a bill to oust Arway first. Thus, what seemed to be a quest for a simple fee increase — $6 the first year and 3 percent annually over the next four years — has fallen prey to Harrisburg dysfunction.
“We’re going to have to wait for a different political climate,” said Senate Game and Fisheries Chair Patrick Stefano, a Republican of Fayette County. ”(Arway) is, right now, the major impediment of anything moving in our committees.”
The $21 cost of an annual resident fishing license hasn’t gone up since 2005. Meanwhile, the commission has made cuts, including the loss of 66 jobs. Arway has sought the power for the commission to set its own fees, which the bills sitting in the House and Senate would grant.
“We just can’t cut any more without sacrificing programs,” Arway said, citing a $110 million repair backlog. ”(We have) major infrastructure needs that we can’t afford to fix unless we get a fee increase.”
The measure to allow the Fish and Boat Commission to change its fees first stalled last year because lawmakers tied its passage to a similar bill for the Game Commission, which seeks to raise its hunting-license fees for the first time in nearly two decades. Leaders believed it would be unfair to give one agency an increase before the other, but controversy about the Game Commission halted progress, creating “an immediate logjam” for the fish bill, said Rep. Jeff C. Wheeland, a Republican of Lycoming County.
AND THE REAL REASON:
In September, the Fish and Boat Commission said that without the increases, $2 million in cuts would need to be made. Arway drew up a list of three hatcheries that would have to close: one each in Potter, Erie, and Juniata counties. He also released a map illustrating stocking cuts that would be made as a result — located in the districts of lawmakers on the other side of the debate.
there is more in the article:
Legislators' feud with director holds up fish funding - Sports - GoErie.com - Erie, PA
its more than political, its PERSONAL. they are holding the agency and the sportsmen hostage in order to remove Arway from the PF&BC by setting term limits when the board wouldnt remove him.
they are also holding up the fee increase for the PGC and tying it to this fiasco.
they need to set term limits for themselves. this is corrupt, blatant and right in our face. we must remember this and vote these people out.