HARRISBURG — State Rep. Gerald Mullery said on Thursday he plans to sponsor legislation that would transfer the responsibility of issuing antlerless licenses from county treasurers to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
In light of a recent delay by Luzerne County in processing applications that caused some hunters to miss out on an antlerless license before they were sold out, Mullery said the time is right to transfer the authority to the game commission. He said he would check with the legislative research office to see if another legislator hasn’t already inquired about the measure, and if none has he would go ahead and draft legislation.
By transferring the antlerless license process to the Game Commission, Mullery said it would create a “one-stop shop” for hunters who would be able to buy their hunting license and apply for a doe permit directly from the agency’s computer licensing system.
“It would be a more efficient and streamlined process,” Mullery said.
But that’s not the only reason why Mullery feels it’s a good idea to let the state agency handle antlerless licenses.
By doing so, he said, it would eliminate the perception that political favoritism plays a role in who gets a license and who doesn’t.
“Back in the day this was a way for county treasurers to get votes,” Mullery said. “Whether it’s real or perceived, people think it still exists. By switching the issuance of antlerless licenses to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, this would eliminate that perception.”
Counties receive $1 from the game commission for every antlerless license they process. That incentive isn’t enough for some counties to want to keep handling the antlerless license process.
Luzerne County Administrative Services Division Head David Parsnik said he would have no problem with a state takeover of the process, noting that budget-related staff cuts are the reason why the county was slower in processing antlerless licenses this year.
Columbia County commissioner Chris Young said they experienced a situation last year similar to what Luzerne County went through, and as a result they hired part-time help this year to assist in processing the license applications. Young said the Columbia County commissioners would be in favor of letting the game commission take over the task.
“We felt it was important to serve the hunters so we put a part-time person in there. But for a $1 a license is it really worth it?” Young said. “The legislature needs to understand the system is archaic and they need to change it.”
Not everyone is willing to hand the job over to the game commission, however. Diane Marburger, who is treasurer for Butler County and past president of the County Treasurers’ Association, said her office hires three part-time workers to assist with antlerless license applications at a cost of approximately $3,000 per year. Marburger’s office processes 23,000 applications, she said, generating roughly $20,000 in revenue for the county.
“It’s a good revenue source and I think we do a good job at it,” Marburger said. “I’ve heard it many times when people say it’s an antiquated system, but don’t take it away from me because you think we’re doing a bad job. We’re not. We accommodate for it and we get the licenses out.”
If a change was made, the PGC’s computer licensing system can handle it, said game commission spokesman Travis Lau. The current system isn’t capable of issuing licenses via a lottery process, meaning hunters would get their doe tags on a first come, first serve basis. Lau said that could change when the system is updated in 2016.
“If it were changed, the money that now goes to county treasurers would go to the license issuing agents who make the sale,” Lau said. “But it would be a savings to us on printing and shipping costs for the envelopes.”
Mullery said he should know by next week if he will draft legislation or co-sponsor a bill that’s already in the works. In either case, he didn’t think a change would a huge impact to counties.
“It’s a lot of work for a buck,” Mullery said. “I don’t think counties would be hurt by taking this away.”