The Indiana General Assembly reconvened this week (Tuesday), and Department
of Natural Resources (DNR) people--including those who dwell in the Division
of Fish and Wildlife (DFW)--must have braced for another round of foul
(not fowl) play.
High jinks has been a way of life over the years for some legislators.
When the so-called "dove-hunting bill" was introduced for the first
time and the bill was up for first reading in the House of Representatives,
a legislator who was opposed to dove hunting (but didn't know why) turned
the chamber into a circus.
He brought a portable record player to the session and blared the old
song, "On the Wings of a Dove" so loud that nobody could hear what was
transpiring . . . to the merriment of all . . . except those who wanted
to hunt doves.
It was a fine display of joviality. I must report that the perpetrator
and his conspirators were paid for a day's work. Needless to say, the dove-hunting
bill died with its boots on. So dead it was that no legislator had the
nerve to introduce such a mirthful measure again for several years.
And when Hoosiers enjoyed their first dove season in 1984, the DNR
established it by authority of a joint resolution of the legislature's
two houses, not a law.
So well imbedded was the opposition to dove hunting that a northern
legislator, in the session that finally quasi-okayed dove hunting, made
a big issue of the eating qualities the bird by gleefully noting that that
he could not understand why anyone would want to hunt such a bird, that
there was not as much meat on a dove as he would get in a quarter-pounder.
We have been told by legislators in the past that "legislators will
be boys" and that they need a bit of levity now and again to retain their
Never mind that their lightheartedness spells doom for measures that
have genuine purpose.
If legislators must have a good belly laugh now and again, we would
suggest a court jester, as if there aren't a goodly number of them now.
Or how about the state investing in a "Joe Miller's Joke Book" for each
While we are on the subject, we probably should point out that ill-advised,
irresponsible bills in the legislature cost the state a ton of money every
Crackpot bills come out of the woodwork every year. If adopted by the
legislature and signed into law, many could have far-reaching negative
impacts, especially when they deal with natural and wildlife resources.
For example, a well-known legislator (a cog, so to speak) a few years
back tried to push a bill through the legislature that would have provided
for the DFW to purchase (with $50,000 dedicated fish and wildlife funds)
raccoons from other states and stock them in Indiana. Some of his constituents
had complained that there were not enough raccoons for good hunting.
The unpopular measure eventually would be known as "the great coondoggle."
It failed, but only after biologists of the DNR pointed out the bill's
myriad foibles, including the possibility that diseased animals from other
states could bring many maladies to our healthy, but sparse, 'coon population.
After the legislative session had ended, the lawmaker showed up in
offices of the DFW with a big question: "When you gonna start bringing
in the 'coons?
He was promptly informed that his bill had failed; that there would
be no foreign 'coons brought into the state.
The sly legislator pointed out that while his bill had failed, its
contents had been amended into a bill that passed in the session's dying
throes and was signed into law.
"Now, when you gonna start bringing in the 'coons?"
DFW officials found enough loopholes in the new law to avoid spending
$50,000 to bring in 'coons from other states. They did buy a few and made
the whole thing satisfactory with the perpetrator by purchasing telemetric
equipment with most of the funding and using it to track down some of the
foreign 'coons that had died mysteriously, presumably of diseases.
The equipment then was used in tracking wild turkey and probably other
The big rub with crackpot bills brought by armchair biologists and
other would-be experts lies in the fact that every time such a measure
pops out of the statehouse's beautiful woodwork, somebody in the DNR or
DFW must drop his half-dressed hide and pull the heirlooms out of the fire.
This costs the DFW many hours of good effort every year. But even at that,
the loss of time and effort is better than having crackpot bills adopted.
During some recent sessions of the legislature biologists, expert resources
managers of the DNR, have been forbidden to speak out--even answer technical
questions relevant to legislative matters.
With John Goss sitting in the chair of the DNR director's office, it
does not appear that this will be the case this year.
It is only horse sense that legislators, who come from all walks of
life, cannot be experts on all matters. It also is horse sense to believe
that when proposals concerning natural and wildlife resources are thrown
into the legislative hopper, the first persons consulted should be those
who are charged with managing said resources.