Chuck Lemker of Crystal Lake was looking forward to purchasing hunting and fishing licenses at a reduced price this month.
He should have been able to starting Aug. 1 when Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law House Bill 4329, which allows Illinois' senior residents to obtain hunting and fishing licenses at a reduced cost of $1, and various stamps for free.
Much to the 81-year-old's dismay, though, the reduced fee was not available when he tried a couple days after Aug. 1 to purchase a license online.
“The bottom line is although the bill was signed by the governor Aug. 1, we still don't have an effective law,” Lemker said Tuesday.
Although the law is in effect, the system is not yet ready, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“Changes to the system started back in late-April, early-May as soon as it became clear the bill would be passed,” spokesman Chris Young said. “However, there are an awful lot of systems that had to be reprogrammed and tested. … It's just taking a while. Systems have to be checked, but it should be done by Oct. 1.”
Young added those eligible for the $1 fee should wait until October to buy licenses, if possible. Those who have already purchased them will get a refund.
The number of eligible seniors who have purchased licenses since Aug. 1 was not available.
The act, sponsored by local Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, moves to lower the cost of hunting and fishing licenses to $1 for residents 75 and older. A full-priced resident fishing license costs $15, or $7.75 for those 65 and older. A resident hunting license costs $12.50, or $6.50 for those 65 and older.
"Anytime we can reduce fees and costs, it's a great victory," Franks said.
It also includes a provision that waives the fees for the following stamps: the salmon stamp, inland trout stamp, state migratory waterfowl stamp, state habitat stamp, the state pheasant stamps and state furbearer stamps.
Franks said he first heard Friday seniors were unable to reap the benefits of the law and immediately started making calls to the Department of Natural Resources.
“It's disappointing they weren't better prepared,” he added, “but once we learned about the problem, we got on it immediately … and they'll all be refunded.”
Eligible seniors who have purchased licenses between Aug. 1 and whenever the technical changes are completed are entitled to a refund. However, this information had yet to be indicated on the department's website as of Wednesday – a fact Lemker was quick to note.
“There certainly isn't anything online to suggest that,” he said. “If they are giving refunds, then they need to communicate that to people.”
Young said a refund form will be added to the Web site in the next couple days.