Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pennsylvania Merger Study and Crazy Rules

By Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

The latest study into whether it makes sense to merge the Pennsylvania Game and Fish and Boat commissions is nearly done.

Its public unveiling is still a ways off.

Phil Durgin, executive director of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, which did the study, said the several-hundred-page document has been given to both commissions for their review. A final version reflective of their comments should be done before Christmas.

It likely will be released to the public in a hearing January at the Capital in Harrisburg, he said.

Durgin would not reveal what the study found. It sounds, though, as if the report will suggest a merger wouldn't bring about huge savings.

Those favoring a merger over the years have suggested it would eliminate duplicate jobs. They point to the fact Pennsylvania is the only state with separate game and fish commissions.

This study, though — like nearly identical ones in 1989 and 2003 — called for maintaining revenues in separate accounts even in a merged agency, Durgin said. Hunting license dollars would go into a game fund, to be spent on wildlife, he said. Fishing license revenues would go into a fish fund, while boating revenues would go to a boating fund. Under that scenario, personnel, programs and activities only could come from specific funds, he said.

That's a real limiting factor, Durgin said.

“If you're going to maintain separate funds for fishing and boating and game, that really cuts down on your efficiencies,” Durgin said.

Still, the report will not offer a recommendation one way.

“We'll just lay out the facts,” Durgin said. “This will just say what would be achievable if a merger were to happen.”

The study will have cost taxpayers between $110,000 and $120,000 by the time it's done, he said.

California gets lead out

The Game and Fish and Boat commissions are not in favor of a merger.
But, no matter what happens, they can take solace in knowing they're not in California.
Recently, state lawmakers approved and Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law legislation that makes California the first state to have banned the use of lead ammunition.
Those who pushed the idea said it will protect condors.

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