Washington Report – November Predictions For Hunter-Related Items

lobbyist-on-capitol-steps-300x200Strange things happen regularly in Washington but few of them are startling. The latest exception to the rule came when Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that he was resigning as House Speaker and from Congress. Then, it was even more odd when his heir apparent, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, announced that he too was taking himself out of consideration.

The election for the next Speaker will come after the deadline for this column has passed. But at this writing it seems safe to predict that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) will take the nod, even after declaring that he had no interest in the post. When only fringe candidates emerged as alternate options, Ryan was cajoled into reconsidering his refusal. The race for Speaker had effectively become a question of who would be willing to accept the job, as opposed to who wanted it.

Most Americans are familiar with Rep. Ryan as Mitt Romney’s selection for running mate. We here at Safari Club are more fortunate to know Congressman Ryan as a dedicated sportsman who has always taken a keen interest in issues that matter to hunters. Ryan is an avid bowhunter himself, and takes great delight in introducing his children to our hunting heritage. And he has shown tremendous leadership over the years in supporting and advancing legislation to benefit hunters’ interests.

From the SCI perspective, Paul Ryan is an excellent choice for Speaker. Certainly, John Boehner was not at all hostile to sportsmen’s issues, and he successfully marshaled the passage of many important bills through the House.   But in his heart, Boehner was a golfer, not a hunter. Ryan will bring a personal knowledge base and appreciation of the ethics and challenge of hunting to the job. It has been decades since the Speaker of the House was a bona fide hunter, and this turn of events can only be a good thing for the hunters’ agenda.   Absent any unexpected developments, Ryan should be in the Speaker’s chair by the time this column is published.

Since we’re making predictions this month, I have a couple more. Voters in Texas will soon go the polls to vote on a state constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to hunt and fish. These provisions, once enacted, serve as a bulwark against the extremist agenda of anti-hunting groups. Eighteen states now guarantee the right to hunt and fish in their constitutions, with 17 of those approved via the voters. While Vermont’s language dates back to 1777, the rest of these constitutional provisions (in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming) have passed since 1996. California and Rhode Island have language in their respective constitutions guaranteeing the right to fish, but not to hunt.

Advocates also consider Alaska’s constitutional language — “Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use” — as meeting the test because of its strong case law history. I will go out on a limb here to predict that Texas will become the 20th state to protect hunting and fishing with a constitutional provision, and that it will pass overwhelmingly with a margin of victory of at least 70%. In fact, I’ll pick 78% as the winning percentage. When this column reaches you, the outcome will be known.

One of the other so-called “off-year” elections in 2015 is for Louisiana Governor. U.S. Senator David Vitter is the leading Republican candidate, and State House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards tops the Democratic field. This election is of particular interest to sportsmen, and not just because Louisiana is the proverbial “Sportsman’s Paradise.”

The immediate future of the Senate version of the “sportsmen’s package” of important legislation may be determined by the outcome of the gubernatorial election. Right now, the bill is held up over concerns that Senator Vitter and other Gulf Coast lawmakers harbor over the federal management of the gulf fishery for red snapper. The issue has become a crucible for a contentious and fiery debate over state versus federal management of the fishery, and the issue looms large in the race for Governor.

So the path forward for the Senate bill is unclear until the outcome of the election for governor is known. Unfortunately, the race doesn’t appear to be headed for a speedy conclusion. There are multiple candidates running, and as is common in Louisiana, current polling indicates that the race is likely headed for a runoff, in which case the two top performing candidates will face each other in a subsequent vote.

So my final prediction for this column is that the race will indeed go to a runoff, which won’t be decided until November 21. That, in turn, means that the Senate likely won’t take further substantive action on the sportsmen’s package this year. If that is the case, the fate of the legislation won’t be determined until 2016, and election-year politics have been unkind to this fate of this bill for the past two cycles now.

There you have it folks, your predictions for November 2015. Watch this space for updates, and rest assured that your SCI team in Washington will always be working to advance our cause, no matter what tomorrow’s headlines may bring.

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