Jack Montoucet talks about raising hunting and fishing fees

Jack Montoucet, secretary for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, told the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday that hunting and fishing fees need to be raised for the first time in 18 years. The plan requires legislative approval, and Montoucet, a former lawmaker, said doing so will be an “uphill battle.”

Despite three delays and a scaled-back bill, legislation that would authorize increases in hunting and fishing license fees failed Monday in the Louisiana House.

The vote was 54-27, 16 votes short of the minimum two-thirds required.

The tally may have killed the measure for the 2018 regular legislative session.

Jack Montoucet, secretary for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, has said the increases are needed because his agency has lost $65 million since 2009 because of state budget problems.

Montoucet has also touted the fact that, under the plan, the number of licenses would be trimmed from 117 to 30, which backers said would bring Louisiana in line with neighboring states.

The legislation would raise $6.8 million per year for the department.

Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, sponsor of the bill, was scheduled to bring up the legislation three times previously this month.

Each time a vote was delayed, apparently to give backers more time to round up the always challenging two-thirds majority needed for a fee hike – 70 votes in the 105-member House.

Zeringue won House approval for his own amendment that trimmed some of the proposed increases.

"This is a way to create efficiencies within the department and allow the department to create a sustainable funding source," he said.

But Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath questioned the need and timing of the hikes.

Miguez said backers appeared to be dressing up higher costs to hunt and fish with a well-advised move to trim the number of licenses.

"Is this sort of putting lipstick on a pig?" he asked Zeringue.

Miguez said it made more sense to revamp the number of licenses now, and take a look at fee hikes in two years.

Louisiana has about 709,000 licensed fishermen and about 326,000 licensed hunters.

Under the plan, the cost of a basic fishing license for residents would rise from $9.50 to $13.50 per year.

A basic hunting license would go up from $15 to $20.

Backers hoped to pick up support for the proposal – House Bill 687 – by reducing some of the proposed increases.

Under the change, a lifetime hunting and fishing license would cost $800, down from the original $1,000 in the bill.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.