Pander-Fishing for Votes

Hey, I know what, let’s eliminate all driver’s licenses. We can burn them at the next convenient tea party.

We should have freedom to drive, for no fee.

Right?

Wrong, certainly.  For reasons too obvious to explore.

But the reasons are no less obvious than for the beyond-dumb idea from a state senator that Florida do away with fishing licenses.

Pandering to freedom-lovers everywhere, Senator Joe Negron (of Stuart no less) introduced a bill this year (SB 744) that would deep-six our entire fishing license structure, fresh and salt. That would cause huge losses to the state’s outdoors infrastructure.

In discussing his brainstorm, Negron showed that he knows next to nothing about the value of fishing licenses in supporting management, law enforcement, research, facilities improvements and securing federal funds from the Sport Fish Restoration Act.

Without a state license program. Florida’s SFR share would simply go to other states, notably California and Texas. Thanks,Florida.

Also, the existing system protects license money from being hi-jacked for other purposes.(We’re reminded of a senator’s attempt years ago to divers license funds into a local beauty pageant.)

Our biggest loss due to wiping out fishing licenses would be to our quality of fishing life.

Salt Life nowadays includes good fishing for species such as trout,redfish, snook, pompano and many others, all in a habitat free of the gill nets, fish traps and wild-west attitudes that preceded  emergence of political clout largely made possible by license funds.

Florida’s salt water license system was adopted three decades ago (can it be possible it was so long ago?)after overcoming some of the same freedom rhetoric we now hear from Negron.

Nowadays,after demonstrated successes of license uses, we have no doubt that the vast majority of anglers enthusiastically support the license. We think they understand that the benefits amount to many times the cost

The Negron bill seemed destined for the trash barrel it deserves. But it is troublesome that it may well pop up again in another misguided attempt to curry favor from certain uninformed voters.

Relatedly, but separately, the legislature should repair a blunder it made last year when out of the blue it made resident shore licenses free, because of a misunderstanding that such a move would be “revenue neutral” and not cause losses.

In truth, the freebie shore license stands to forfeit millions in Restoration Fund money over coming years.Moreover, it means that these anglers make no contribution to the fisheries but will indeed cost regular license buyers many thousands of dollars to administer for the free-riders, all for no benefits.

So let’s iron out the fishing license wrinkles. Drop the no-license notion, for good. And fix the free-shore-license mistake while at it.

And keep our driver’s licenses.

FS