Special Session Adjourns
We'll need hikers at Lobby Day on February 1 advocating to make the Discover Pass transferable. Photo by Susan Saul.
What's that hissing noise? Oh, it's the air being sucked out of the room.
While I was sitting in the Senate Energy, Natural Resources, and Marine Waters Committee yesterday waiting to testify in favor of SB 5977, the legislature decided that they could agree on a package of $479 million in cuts (out of $2 billion needed) and adjourned until January. This delays the possibility of the Discover Pass becoming transferable between cars to 2012.
With the legislature adjourned, the hearing turned into a work session. Committees cannot vote on bills unless they're actually in session, and since Senator Ranker, Chair of the committee, had hoped to vote the bill out right after the hearing, hopes were somewhat dashed. But SB 5977 is strongly supported by the majority of the Senate, and its companion bill, HB 2153, has the backing of a substantial chunk of the House. These bills should move early next session.
All told, ten people testified on behalf of the legislation, representing trail users from hikers and equestrians to snowmobilers. Included in that group were the agency heads of DNR, State Parks and Fish and Wildlife. No one was opposed, and everyone stressed the importance of increasing Discover Pass sales by making the pass transferable between vehicles and more palatable to trail users.
Sales of the Discover Pass have fared worse than projected, in part leading to cuts of 161 positions at State Parks next year. If we are to stave off more draconian cuts (including park closures), Discover Pass sales must increase. It is good to see everyone on board to making this important change.
And it does appear that this bill is going places. At WTA, we're excited about these upcoming changes to the pass, and we'll keep you posted as it moves through the legislative process. But we are going to need hikers like you to keep the legislature going down this path. Hiker Lobby Day is Wednesday, February 1. Please join us there to advocate on behalf of state recreation lands!