Legislature Kills Lots of Bills

Kerri Bickford Capitol twoMost of the bills proposed each legislative session get killed. Even the best of ideas often take years to gain enough support for enactment. That’s the legislative process, and usually only those who can sustain their effort by being there early, often, and always – like the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine – succeed.

You may think that Maine hunters – like those in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and lots of other states – should be able to hunt on Sundays. Well, never in Maine, at least as far as the Maine legislature is concerned. All the Sunday hunting bills, including one that would have limited the opportunity to coyote hunting in northern Maine, were defeated.

Groups like the Maine Farm Bureau, the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, and the Forest Products Council, strongly oppose Sunday hunting, and even many sportsmen’s groups consistently testify against Sunday hunting bills, including the Maine Professional Guides Association, Maine Bowhunters Association, and Maine Snowmobile Association.

Fees are often a difficult issue as well. My proposal, sponsored by Senator Tom Saviello, to eliminate the turkey hunting fee, was defeated, as was my bill, sponsored by Representative Mike Shaw, to create a comprehensive hunting license. That would have eliminated more than 60 licenses and permits.

A bill that would allow landowners to remove beaver dams to allow for fish passage didn’t get far, nor did a well-intentioned proposal to allow hunters to wear pink instead of orange, in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I suggested that hunters who want to do this, wear both the required orange as well as something in pink.

A bill sponsored by Representative Danny Martin, who served as Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife throughout the Baldacci Administration, got through the House and Senate, would have expanded research on the impact of ticks on moose, recognizing that DIF&W expressed a need for a second study area. Unfortunately it got vetoed by the Governor, who said he didn’t like studied, and that veto was sustained so the bill died. I had no luck in trying to get the Appropriations Committee to add money to DIF&W’s budget to accomplish the same goal.

The big unknown is mortality and the causes of mortality,” DIF&W’s moose biologist Lee Kantar told legislators. “So we have to be cautious in the number of permits we issue.” I guess that isn’t going to change anytime soon. You can expect moose hunting permits to continue to decline.

A sensible bill to allow ice anglers to take a 20-minute break from monitoring ice fishing lines, sponsored by Senator Paul Davis, was too sensible I guess. It died, mostly because of strong opposition from the Maine Warden Service.

A less sensible bill to allow the hunting of small game animals with a slingshot, which drew many animal rights activists to the hearing and resulted in some ugly testimony, was unanimously defeated by members of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

A bill titled, An Act to Increase the Safety of Hunting would have imposed much stiffer fines for discharging firearms and crossbows within 100 yards of a building or residential dwelling, and expanded the roadside area where you cannot shoot from 10 feet to 100 feet, and require that firearms in vehicles be enclosed in a case. That one went down quickly.

These are only a few of the more than 1000 bills that were defeated this session.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.