At first, I thought HB2072 was a well-meaning but poorly handled effort. The bill would create a plethora of big game auction and raffle tags, a new sports expo and seemingly, all the benfits would go to a single qualifying group. You can read about the original kerfuffle here: HB2072 Causing A Stir.

That created an uproar amongst Arizona sportsmen and the legislator retracted the bill: Rep Weiers Statement. Especially on the message boards, the original backers indicated that they had heard us, and the concept was dead. Well, kinda like herpes, it just seems to keep coming back.

Note – the date is wrong but the memo was released last week.

To: Arizona Sportsmen and Conservation Organization Board of Directors
FROM: Alan Hamberlin, Chairman AZSFW
RE: Response to Organization Concerns about HB 2072
DATE: February 29, 2010

In our continuing effort to communicate with sportsmen and conservation organizations, we wanted to bring you up to date on the status of HB 2072. Earlier today we met with representatives from the Governor’s office and two of the five commissioners primarily to see if there is an opportunity for continuing dialogue on the bill. We agreed to continue to communicate with them as we progress to let them know what changes we are making to the bill.
We appreciate the responses and feedback that we have received relative to the introduced version of the bill and our responses to those concerns are listed below. It is our desire to solicit any additional concerns you may have. We respectfully request that this memo be disseminated to all members of your respective Boards of Directors asking them to identify additional issues that they may have. We will seriously evaluate and respond to any legitimate concerns. There are at least four items that we agree to modify in response to concerns and issues that have been raised thus far as follows:
1. The original bill had no cap on administrative fees; we will cap those fees at 10%
2. While the original bill had a reporting requirement for the qualifying organization to adopt a Board resolution and submit it to the Arizona Game and Fish Department specifying the amount of proceeds received from the sale of tags from the auction and raffle and sold at the EXPO and Banquets and the costs associated with same and the monies paid for each of the six purposes listed in the bill and the cost of administration. We will add a new provision requiring an annual outside independent audit of the proceeds received from tag sales and the expenditure of those proceeds by a certified public accountant.
3. We have been asked to cap the number of tags that will be available as a result of the legislation in the future to 350 tags. We agree to cap the number of tags at 350.
4. Concern has been raised by some that none of the monies flow directly back to the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). We are willing to negotiate with Game and Fish and are prepared to offer them up to 30% of the net proceeds to augment their hunter recruitment program if they support the legislation.

Please communicate any additional concerns to Suzanne Gilstrap at 602-390-4518 or preferably communicate via email to [email protected] .

With the astounding groundswell of opposition to this bill, surely AZSFW can’t really believe they are representing Arizona Sportsmen any more. The harder they push, the more apparent their motives are “in spite” of Arizona Hunters, not “in support” of us. The “critter groups” as they are called – Deer Association, Elk Society, AZDBSS, etc all do an admirable job now with auction tags and fundraisers.

Please take a moment to check out AZGF Commissioner Freeman’s website: AZGFC

Also, enjoy Guest Commentary on Commissioner Freeman’s site by former Commissioner Robbie Woodhouse: Woodhouse Commentary

By now, we all know the concept. Some 350 big game tags diverted from the random draw to be auctioned to the highest bidder, which won’t be me … or, probably, you. Additionally, these big game tags will come with less restrictive harvest rules, making them premium big game tags.

Proponents of HB2072 say that the tags are not diverted because, despite the fact that the tags have been made premium and may bring in millions at auction, the club to which they are awarded will pay AZGFD the face value of the tag had it been drawn by the hunting public. Thus, the Department gets the same revenue.

Well, I’m not the Department. I’m a guy who wants a fair shot at a trophy tag. What I know is that I have zero chance of being the high bidder on one of these tags at auction. I also know that the richest guy at the banquet who wants the tag has 100% chance of winning it. In the random draw, I have a least some chance of winning the tag … the same chance as the rich guy. If you take 350 trophy tags out of the random draw and put them in an auction, my chances decrease. “Changing the course of a thing” is the very dictionary definition of diversion.

But proponents claim that many good things will come from the diversion, upgrade, and auction of these tags. “Jobs will be created.” “A sportsman’s expo will be produced.” “Twenty five million dollars will be generated.” There is an economic impact study purchased by the proponents that tells us Yuma County will get $332,000! Yavapai County will get $539,000! (I wonder how much extra it would cost to have the economist round up?)

I’m a simple guy. I’m not a legislator … not a commissioner … not a lawyer … and not an economics professor (though I have to admit I am skeptical of those given the faulty projections of the federal Council of Economic Advisers … but I’ll put that bias aside for the moment). So, I thought, “How can I best understand this complex legislative proposal?” Well, maybe I could look at it as if I wanted to start a club myself. Maybe I would call it the “Bubba Valley Rod and Gun Club.” I could solicit memberships … maybe charge a membership fee of some $30 per year. If I got, oh, let’s say 500 members, that would be $15,000 per year. And with that money our club would do all sorts of good things. At the end of the year I would hold a banquet to recap the good things we did and have fun with my friends. We might have to pay a little extra, say $30, to attend the banquet in order to make it a nice event. That adds another $15,000 to the budget.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?! But then HB2072 comes along. It says that premium tags can be awarded to clubs that qualify and that the qualified clubs may auction the tags and use proceeds to pay for, among other things, banquets and “administrative” costs. As a club administrator, that piques my interest! How does the Bubba Valley Rod and Gun Club get qualified? According to the Bill, the club has to be a 501(c)(3) with the IRS … ok, I can do that … and “its membership must include a significant cross-section of species-specific wildlife conservation and sportsmen organizations from throughout this state.” Hmmm, that’s a little harder. What is “significant”? What is a “cross-section”? I guess I could ask my buddies at the other Rod and Gun Club here in the Valley, the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, to join my club … but wait, they are not “species-specific” … so I guess they don’t count. And my club can’t ‘be a member or hold a charter or be a chapter of a national wildlife conservation or sportsman’s organization’ … why is that, I wonder? Oh, and the club has to be in existence at least five years. I’m out of luck there.

Don’t these qualifications seem very tailored? I can think of only one organization in Arizona that meets the criteria in the Bill. That is Arizona Sportsman for Wildlife Conservation. If you can think of another, please let me know. And isn’t it interesting that the lobbyist for that group floated this concept to the legislature in the first place. But I am sure that she did not intend to leave out an opportunity for the Bubba Valley Rod and Gun Club to qualify for the financial benefits of the Bill … so let’s pretend for a moment that the Bubba Club qualifies. What do we get?!

We get an exclusive right to resell tags that have been set aside by the Department just for us. These tags will be diverted from the regular draw and will be super-sized- also, just for us. They will become special tags with special harvest provisions and special fancy names, like “governor” tags. Governor tags provide the winner with an opportunity to hunt a specific species in any hunt area with any legal weapon for three hundred sixty-five days beginning August 15 of each year. Two governor’s tags for each of the following species: elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, bison (buffalo) and bear. One tag for each of the following species: desert bighorn sheep, rocky mountain bighorn sheep, pronghorn (antelope), Merriam’s turkey, Rio Grande turkey and Gould’s turkey.

We don’t want legislators to feel left out, so we will name some tags after them too. We’ll call them “legislator” tags … Legislator tags are also species specific and are valid for any open season for that species for a specific hunt area with the legal weapon allowed for that season. Legislator tags are issued as follows: (a) at least ten tags, and at least one tag for each hunt area, for bull elk in hunt areas that offer all of the following three types of hunts: (i) early archery bull elk hunts. (ii) either early muzzleloader bull elk hunts or early rifle bull elk hunts. (iii) late bull elk hunts. (b) one tag for whitetail deer for each hunt area that offers late hunts. (c) one tag for mule deer for each hunt area that offers a general season hunt and is located north of the Colorado river. (d) two tags for antelope valid for all hunt numbers as the commission specifies in any of regions 1, 2, 3 and 5 as in existence on January 1, 2012, except that both tags shall not be from the same region. Then there is a raffle for the sportsmen. Hey, that sounds like a good idea … kind of like the draw we already have.

This could generate a lot of money! Where will it all go? The Bill says it will first go to … the qualified organization! That’s the Bubba Valley Rod and Gun Club! Under paragraph H of the Bill, Bubba Valley must then first apply proceeds to cover the costs associated with “the annual sportsmen exposition” in this state. Do they mean Bubba has to give money to the International Sportsman’s Exposition … aren’t they the annual sportsmen exposition in this State? Or does Bubba give it the Arizona Game and Fish Expo … the other exposition in this state? Well, I think the Bill says under paragraph A that Bubba is supposed to make a new exposition. But paragraph H doesn’t reference paragraph A. Bubba must also give money to cover costs of any County Chapter Banquet at which the tags are auctioned or raffled. I couldn’t find a definition of a County Chapter … I guess we don’t want to be too specific about these things, it’s only money.

That’s cool. Bubba Valley will put on a new expo and get all of its costs paid for by tags diverted from Arizona Game and Fish. The Bubba Valley Annual Arizona Sportsman’s Expo will sell vendor space and get sponsors … maybe even charge admission! That will generate even more money for Bubba Valley. I can see my Bubba budget growing! And, certainly, Bubba Valley and all its friends will participate in producing the expo, so they will all get some money when the “costs” are paid. But wait, there’s more, administrative fees get paid too! And there is no definition of “administrative.” I would argue that lobbying the legislature is administrative, wouldn’t you?

In fact, just about every expense I can think of fits in the categories of “costs” or “administration.” Nevertheless, the Bill says that any money I couldn’t cram into one of those categories will go toward some warm and fuzzy if not ill-defined and amorphous objectives like “promoting sportsmen heritage.” (which seems to me might be better promoted if there was more rather than less opportunity for common folk to get a trophy tag).

Since Bubba Valley will assuredly auction some tags at its own banquet, the costs of that banquet must be covered as well. Think of how this could increase Bubba Valley’s $15,000 projected budget for a banquet. How big of a banquet could we have? Champagne and caviar! Too bad for the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club- which didn’t qualify for anything. SpaghettiOs for them!

I wish it was Bubba Valley Rod and Gun Club that would be the lucky beneficiary of this wonderful legislative windfall. I could keep myself busy raking in the bucks for the rest of my career “administering” this fine section of our beloved Arizona Revised Statutes …

No, actually, I have a conscience. I find this dirty back-room deal disgusting. I believe in fair play, fair chase and fair opportunity. As a commissioner I tried the route of ethics, diplomacy and compromise. I have since showered. You cannot be diplomatic with those who themselves have no ethics or diplomacy. You cannot compromise with those who have no intention whatsoever of holding up their end of the bargain. You cannot make a fair deal with people who do not care about fairness. You cannot work with someone to resolve a problem when that person makes money by creating problems!

How about fair opportunity for the International Sportsman’s Exposition? Now they have to compete against a group that is given start-up and operational money from State assets? What if this was YOUR private business? How would you feel if the government funded your competitor?

How about the very proposition of public assets being funneled to private entities? How many of you support federal assets being funneled to companies like Solyndra, LightSquared and the like … or ACORN or Planned Parenthood? What makes me mad is that the proponents of HB2072 call themselves conservatives and would protest the diversion of assets if it were proposed by liberals, but have found ways to justify this!

So- the proponents have come back again … they want a “stakeholder” meeting. Really?! Everybody in Arizona is a stakeholder, but they have not invited everybody. You can be assured that the current Chair of the Commission will not be invited. He is a volunteer who has been an advocate for the common guy. No matter how they spin it, this idea is NOT for the common guy.

Proponents want to “compromise.” The only compromise is: if you want a new expo, pay for one yourself. Put your own assets at risk. If you want a bigger banquet, pay for one yourself. If you want your club’s costs and administrative fees paid, pay for them yourself. And if you want your lobbyist paid- PAY YOURSELF! There- we don’t need a bill for that.

Robert Woodhouse

Folks – this is important stuff. Please study the issue, and contact your legislators as applicable. Some HB2072 grassroots commentary, from across the web:

The Arizona Hunter

Arizona Sportsmens Journal