By Rep. David Maloney (R-Berks)
Last week, the Senate, with a nod from Gov. Josh Shapiro, violated the federal Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and moved forward with a fiscal code (House Bill 1300
), part of the unfinished House Democrat budget, and took $150 million from the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) to put into the Clean Streams funding.
I believe this to be a violation of federal law and Pennsylvania law. The money the PGC are stewards of funds that belong to the sportsmen and sportswomen of Pennsylvania. While I have my issues with the PGC, it is an independent agency for a reason – to protect and maintain the hunting lands that belong to the sportsmen who paid for them.
Why would they attempt to do this? Because the one thing the Senate is “bipartisan” about is taking money that is not theirs and spending it on their own pet projects.
What “logic” is the Senate applying to justify this? The Senate claims the gas and oil lease money that comes from the lands managed by the PGC belong to the state. But the simple fact is those lands would not be available for oil and gas leases had sportsmen’s money not been used to buy and maintain them.
There is a sad history behind these illegal money grabs. In 2021, the Pennsylvania courts ruled that the administration had violated the state constitution when it took $1.3 billion from Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) oil and gas lease money. The administration ignored constitutional checks and balances and kept the money and paid no price
But that court case was against the administration. What would the courts decide if the General Assembly follows through with stealing sportsmen’s money? And it is a good bet the General Assembly will do just that. Why? Because the Senate put a carrot in front of Shapiro and the House Democrat’s tenuous one vote majority - $25 million for Philadelphia to host the 2026 FIFA (soccer) World Cup.
On Sept. 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent a letter to the PGC with their opinion on this $150 million “transfer” of funds
. The letter states:
License revenue must be controlled by the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) and used only for the administration of the PGC (50 CFR § 80.10(c)). If PGC loses control of license revenue or license revenue is used for purposes other than the administration of the PGC, the Service may declare your agency to be in diversion and ineligible to receive PR-Wildlife Restoration Program funding (50 CFR § 80.21).
I will strongly oppose this money grab when the fiscal code comes before the House, but that won’t be enough. Every hunter and angler in Pennsylvania must unify and speak out strongly. There are two things’ politicians will react to very quickly – lobbyist money and constituents burning up their phone lines and inboxes.