BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  SB 1179
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          Date of Hearing:   June 15, 2010

                            Jared William Huffman, Chair
                 SB 1179 (Hollingsworth) - As Amended:  June 21, 2010

           SENATE VOTE  :   28-6
          SUBJECT  :   Free Hunt Days

           SUMMARY  :   Requires the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to  
          designate two free hunt days per year.  Specifically,  this bill  :

          1)Requires the director of DFG to designate 2 free hunt days per  
            year, one during the Fall hunt season and one during the  
            winter.  Requires DFG to publish the dates of the free hunt  

          2)Authorizes a California resident who has never previously held  
            a California state hunting license to hunt during a free hunt  
            day if accompanied by a licensed hunter who meets certain  
            requirements, and the unlicensed hunter stays in close visual  
            and verbal contact with the licensed hunter at all times.   
            Requires that the licensed hunter accompanying the unlicensed  
            hunter be at least 18 years old and licensed to hunt for the  
            last 3 consecutive years.

          3)Provides that the unlicensed hunter would be subject to all of  
            the limitations, restrictions, conditions, statutes, rules and  
            regulations applicable to licensed hunters, except the  
            requirement to possess a valid hunting license.

          4)Authorizes DFG to require an unlicensed hunter to demonstrate  
            the safe operation of the firearm prior to being authorized to  
            hunt on a free hunt day.   Persons authorized to evaluate  
            whether the person has demonstrated safe operation of the  
            firearm include any person who has held a hunting license for  
            the last 3 years, a licensed firearms dealer or dealer's  
            employee, or a hunter education instructor.  Authorizes DFG to  
            prohibit unlicensed hunters from taking species that require a  
            draw or lottery to obtain a tag or require a federal stamp.

          5)Makes legislative findings and declarations regarding the  
            contributions of hunters and fishermen and the fact that the  
            state allows for 2 free fishing days, and states legislative  


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            intent to similarly allow for 2 free hunting days.

          6)Requires an unlicensed hunter to complete an online hunter  
            safety course. 

           EXISTING LAW :

          1)Requires possession of a hunting license to take birds or  
            mammals in California.  Provides for issuance of hunting  
            licenses to residents and nonresidents upon payment of  
            specified fees.

          2)Requires completion of a hunting education course as a  
            condition of obtaining a hunting license.  Hunter education  
            courses are a minimum of 10 hours and cover firearm safety and  
            handling, sportsmanship and ethics, wildlife management and  
            conservation, archery, black powder, wildlife identification,  
            game care, first aid, and survival.

          3)Requires possession of a fishing license to take fish.   
            Authorizes DFG to designate 2 free fishing days per year. 

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee analysis, increased enforcement costs to DFG of up to  
          $130,000 per year, and reduced license and tag fee revenue of  
          likely more than $180,000 per year. 

           COMMENTS  :   This bill requires DFG to designate 2 free hunt days  
          per year, during which any California resident who has not  
          previously been licensed to hunt in California could hunt  
          without a hunting license for free.   Unlicensed hunters would  
          be required to be accompanied by a licensed hunter who is at  
          least 18 years of age, but there would be no minimum age limit  
          for the unlicensed hunter.  This bill is also silent as to how  
          many unlicensed hunters one licensed hunter would be authorized  
          to supervise at a time, thereby presumably allowing one person  
          to supervise multiple unlicensed persons at one time.

          This bill would allow persons to hunt two days a year without  
          first completing and passing the standard DFG approved hunter  
          education course which is otherwise required to obtain a hunting  
          license, though the June 21st amendments would require that the  
          person take a shorter online course.  Currently, the hunter  
          education course requirement serves as a quasi-age limit for  
          hunters, since very young children are not generally capable of  


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          completing the course.  The course includes both an online and  
          an in-person component.  According to DFG's website, hunting  
          accidents of all types have declined substantially with the  
          hunter education course requirement.  Although this bill allows  
          DFG to require an unlicensed hunter to demonstrate the safe  
          operation of the firearm they intend to use prior to being  
          authorized to hunt on a free hunt day, any licensed hunter who  
          has been licensed for the last three years, or any licensed  
          firearms dealer or employee, would be authorized to evaluate  
          whether the unlicensed person has demonstrated safe operation of  
          the firearm, and to provide an affidavit to DFG to that effect.   

          This bill would also allow one licensed person to supervise  
          multiple younger unlicensed hunters on the 2 free hunt days.   
          Currently, DFG on its junior hunt days requires one  
          hunting-licensed adult chaperone for every 2 youth, and also  
          requires young people participating in the junior hunt days for  
          the first time to complete a hunter education course.  Even with  
          these adult to child ratio requirements, and the requirement for  
          the hunter education course, accidents have occurred on junior  
          hunt days.  In 2006, an 11 year old boy lost his left eye and  
          had to undergo 12 hours of surgery when another boy accidentally  
          shot him on a state-organized junior pheasant hunt north of  
          Sacramento.   That case ultimately resulted in a judgment of  
          substantial liability against the state.  According to DFG at  
          that time, an average of 20 hunting accidents occur in  
          California yearly with 2 fatalities.   

          Hunter education courses also cover more than just safe  
          operation of firearms, and also include education on wildlife  
          management and conservation, sportsmanship and ethics, and other  
          related topics.  The Legislature enacted hunting education  
          requirements in order to ensure the health and safety of hunters  
          and to reflect the Legislature's intent that hunters be aware of  
          their responsibilities to others, towards wildlife, and toward  
          their natural environment.  In light of this intent, the  
          committee may wish to consider whether this bill contains  
          appropriate safeguards to warrant exempting unlicensed hunters  
          from the requirement to complete and pass the full hunter  
          education course.  

          Under this bill, persons who are interested in only hunting one  
          or two times per year could elect to just hunt on the two free  
          hunt days each year and never obtain a hunting license.  To the  


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          extent persons who would otherwise be required to obtain a  
          hunting license elect not to, this bill could result in a  
          reduction of hunting license fee revenue to DFG.  DFG's related  
          enforcement costs, however, would increase.

          DFG would likely face additional enforcement challenges in the  
          field were this bill to become law.  Currently, at least until  
          DFG's Automated License Data System (ALDS) is fully operational,  
          DFG has no way of tracking whether someone has previously held a  
          hunting license and would be eligible to hunt for free, and no  
          way of tracking whether a proposed supervising hunter has been  
          continually licensed for the prior three years and therefore  
          meets the eligibility criteria to be a supervisor.

          Amendments adopted in the Senate changed the bill from a mandate  
          to an authorization for DFG to allow 2 free hunt days, and also  
          authorized DFG to adopt additional minimum requirements by  
          regulation.  The June 21st author's amendments strike these  
          Senate amendments and return the bill to a mandate, and also  
          strike the authority for DFG to adopt additional minimum  
          requirements through regulation.   By comparison, the  
          authorization for free fishing days is permissive rather than  
          mandatory on DFG.  

           Arguments in Support  :  Supporters assert that this bill provides  
          parity with fishing since DFG is already authorized to designate  
          2 free fishing days per year.  They also contend that by  
          allowing persons who have never hunted before to try it out  
          before purchasing a license, this bill could introduce new  
          hunters to the sport who may then elect to purchase licenses in  
          the future.  The author also cites statistics from the National  
          Shooting Sports Foundation indicating that accidental firearms  
          fatalities are at an all time low, the injury rate of hunting  
          compared to other types of recreation, and the impact of the  
          firearms industry on California's economy.

           Arguments in Opposition  :  DFG opposes this bill unless amended.   
          They note this bill as currently drafted could expose the state  
          to liability by not fully addressing hunter education  
          requirements, including lax requirements for the supervising  
          hunter, additional requirements applicable to take of certain  
          species such as duck and upland game, and the lack of an  
          effective tracking system to prevent abuse.  DFG indicates that  
          at a minimum a licensed hunter should be allowed to accompany  
          only one unlicensed hunter in the field at a time, and the  


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          unlicensed hunter should be required to possess a certificate of  
          completion of a hunter education class.  They further note the  
          firearms certification component is in direct violation with  
          existing statute. 

           Policy Issues  :  The policy questions for the committee to  
          consider include:  Should children or adults who do not possess  
          a hunting license, and have not completed and passed a full  
          hunter education course, be allowed to hunt without a hunting  
          license on two days per year, as designated by DFG?  Should the  
          minimum age for licensed supervisors be greater than 18 years of  
          age?  Should there be a limit on the number of unlicensed  
          persons one person can be responsible for supervising at a time?  
           Should persons authorized to supervise unlicensed hunters be  
          subject to background checks for prior violations, and be  
          required themselves to have recently completed a hunter  
          education course?  Does the potential benefit of introducing  
          more people to the sport of hunting outweigh the increased  
          enforcement obligations and potential public safety issues this  
          bill could create?

          If the committee elects to approve this bill, the committee may  
          want to consider the following amendments:

             1)   Clarify that completion and passage of the complete  
               state approved hunter education course is a required  
               prerequisite for any person to be eligible to hunt on a  
               free hunt day.

             2)   Require that persons desiring to participate in free  
               hunt days, and to supervise unlicensed hunters, register  
               with the department.

             3)   Require supervisors of unlicensed hunters to be at least  
               25 years of age.

             4)   Require that a supervisor only be authorized to  
               supervise one unlicensed hunter at a time.

             5)   Postpone authorization for free hunt days until DFG's  
               ALDS is fully operational.

             6)   Authorize rather than require DFG to establish 2 free  
               hunt days, and authorize DFG to adopt additional minimum  
               requirements or restrictions applicable to free hunt days.   


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          California Association of Firearms Retailers
          California Sportsman's Lobby, Inc.
          National Rifle Association of America
          National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc.
          Outdoor Sportsmen's Coalition of California
          Safari Club International
          Sierra Club 
          2 individuals
          Department of Fish and Game (unless amended)

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Diane Colborn / W., P. & W. / (916)