Hunting and fishing bill receives first hearing of the 2024 session

by Nancy Royden, Legislative Research Commission

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 4, 2024) — A measure on hunting and fishing licenses for landowners – the first bill to receive a hearing in the 2024 legislative session – advanced out of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee on Thursday.

State law allows Kentuckians to hunt and fish without a license on their own farmland if the property is at least five acres in size. However, Senate Bill 5 would eliminate the language on acreage, which supporters said has caused concern among landowners.  

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Gex Williams, R-Verona, said SB 5 provides a technical correction to a law that added the wording about acres to statute last year.  

“It’s just six words – very clear,” he said. “There’s some discussion we might have later on on some of these areas.”

The measure generated some debate in committee over the statutory definition of farmland. 

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, sponsored the change in 2023 and said Thursday that there had been a “campaign of misinformation” regarding the requirement. 

She noted that state and national definitions of farmland call for at least 10 acres of property and said the earlier legislation was crafted as an accommodation and at the request of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

However, she voted for SB 5 “because if we go back to the original law that’s been that way for many, many years.” 

Williams said the issue may have created a gap between the strict legal understanding and the popular understanding of how the law works. But he said he expects to close that gap as the session proceeds. 

Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg, also voted in favor of the measure.

“I am for this language because I voted against last year to change it, so I have no problem reverting back,” she said. “I know everybody is talking about this now that everyone’s started realizing what it was.”

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, also voted for the measure, and said it’s an important issue that’s been mired in confusion, but will be addressed through small changes.

“This has been a huge, huge issue up in my district, and I thank Senator Williams …for addressing it in the first week of the session,” he said.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said on the Senate floor Thursday that the bill is on track to receive a floor vote next week.

“That is likely to be the first bill that we take action on this floor on Monday or Tuesday of next week,” he said.

Top photo: Sen. Gex Williams, R-Verona, testifies on Senate Bill 5 during Thursday’s meeting of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He is the primary sponsor of SB 5 related to hunting and fishing licenses for landowners. (LRC PIO)