– Tennessee fishing licenses are now worthless, thanks to a legislative compromise struck by Republican lawmakers and Democrats.
State Sen. Scott Smith said he has made the deal with the Democratic-led Senate, which passed the legislation Thursday after weeks of negotiations and without the support of his Republican counterpart.
Smith, a Democrat, said he reached a deal with House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger to save the licenses, which were set to expire at the end of June.
The compromise also allows the state to purchase fishing licenses for private individuals and businesses for a maximum of $250,000, but only if those individuals or businesses also have a license to fish in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been negotiating with the state since last fall to sell the licenses.
But after years of negotiation, Rosenberger, a Republican, has found the best deal he could get in the end was $200,000.
He said he also reached a $25 million deal with state Sen. Jim Cooper, a Democratic.
Tennessee has seen a boom in fishing since a new statewide regulation took effect in January, making it easier to catch bluefin tuna, swordfish, mackerel and herring in the Gulf of Mexico.
The state has seen its fishing license prices drop nearly 70 percent in the last year, according to the state Department of Commerce.
Rosenberger said Thursday that the deal allows the agency to buy the licenses for $250 each, but that the money is only for the initial purchase and then for the renewal period.
The renewal period is set to end at the same time as the current licenses expire, but Rosenberger said that may change.
Tennsylvania’s lawmakers approved a similar compromise last year after years on a similar path to the one in Tennessee and other states, but the agreement was defeated.
In February, lawmakers approved legislation to extend the renewal for five years.