Increased Funding for Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs (HOFNOD)

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association June 2019 Newsletter)

Background: The JCAA, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA), and the NJ Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs have been lobbying legislators for many years, perhaps 10, to pass the HOFNOD bill (Hooked on Fishing and Not on Drugs). In September of 2012, it finally received legislative approval. The purpose of HOFNOD is to get kids and young adults, especially from high crime city environments, interested in fishing. Individuals are trained through this program to reach out to schools and community organizations to get kids on fishing trips and show them the benefits of getting in touch with nature that is all around us. The funding for HOFNOD ($200,000) comes from the Drug and Demand Reduction Fund that is continually replenished from cars, monies and other items seized by police from people involved in the drug trade or from DWI. Funding for HOFNOD comes from this fund and NOT from taxpayers. HOFNOD is administered by our state’s DEP and through the Division of Fish & Wildlife.

Since its inception, HOFNOD has expanded its goals from community-based organizations and after school programs to the development of HOFNOD curriculum in high schools. A Health and Physical Education teacher in Brick High School (Tim Brennan) was recently awarded “Teacher of the Year” for introducing HOFNOD to combat the growing drug epidemic in Ocean County. To increase the effectiveness of HOFNOD, more money is needed for this program to the amount of $450,000.

On December 17, 2018, the NJOA members held a Caucus in Trenton with New Jersey’s legislators to talk to them about a number of issues concerning hunting and fishing in this state. I also attended this Caucus and I talked to a number of legislators about HOFNOD and every one of them knew about it and spoke favorably to the increase of its budget from $200,000 to $450,000. Talking directly to legislators about HOFNOD or any other issue is very effective since you are face-to-face and can answer any of their concerns.

On March 7, 2019, Senator Bob Smith, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, held a hearing to discuss bill S-3457 to appropriate $450,000 for HOFNOD. Ed Markowski, President, NJOA, and I testified on the merits of passing this bill. At the end of our testimony, Senator Smith remarked that HOFNOD is a great program that benefits so many people and this bill is one of the best that has come across his committee that day. A roll call followed and members of this committee passed it unanimously.

The next steps for final passage of this bill are to have it posted in the Assembly’s Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee for review. Also, Senator Smith may send this bill to the Senate for approval. Since money is involved, increased funding for HOFNOD may require review by the Budget and Appropriations Committee. Complicating passage of increased funding for HOFNOD is the present bickering that is going on with the Governor and the legislature over developing a new budget for our state that is supposed to be approved by June of this year. We may have to wait until this new budget is in place before the legislature considers increased funding for HOFNOD.

The key to getting approval of this HOFNOD bill or any other bill is to stay on top of it with legislators who have a multitude of bills that they have to consider. We will be watching for every opportunity we have to promote passage of increased funding for HOFNOD so that more youths will be exposed to fishing and the joy that it brings to all of us.

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