By Justin Snow
Legislation that would have nearly doubled the price of hunting licenses faced a rare defeat in the House of Delegates Monday night after a lively debate.
The bill would have increased the cost of a hunting license from $24.50 to $40 as well as imposed various other fees related to hunting stamps, with revenue generated going toward the State Wildlife Management and Protection Fund.
Democrats and Republicans from rural parts of the state assailed the bill as taking food off the tables of Marylanders and described the price hike as outrageous. Some argued that added together the increased fees would amount to $100.
“Let’s talk about taking food off peoples’ tables,” said Del. Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil. “Now you want to tax them when they go out behind their house in the woods and try to take a squirrel.”
Supporters argued that there was no public opposition to the bill, leaving opponents to question whether that was because the bill was filed late and the Environmental Matters Committee had only allowed written testimony from opponents at the bill’s hearing.
“I can’t imagine not having a hearing and a full vetting of this where the public can come in,” said Del. Michael McDermott, R-Wicomico.
Although proponents pointed to the support of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen's Foundation, opponents said the organization was not an adequate representation of all Maryland hunters, including those who rely on hunting season to feed their families.
Voicing her opposition to the bill, Del. Mary-Dulany James, D-Harford, said rank-and-file hunters would never support such legislation and blasted attempts to push the legislation through. “Just because you have the votes to do something doesn’t mean you should,” she said to an unusual burst of applause from the chamber.
Opponents also expressed concerns over the revenue the state could lose if hunters from states like Pennsylvania and Delaware opted to skip hunting season in Maryland due to the increased fees.
In the end, dissenting arguments seemed persuasive. Cheers engulfed the chamber when the tally board revealed the bill had failed 62-69.