"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Legislative Watch
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

There is good news and bad news in the Legislative Watch department before the current session of the Indiana General Assembly had time to get dry behind the ears.

The good news can be related in a short paragraph or two. It concerns Senate Bill 45’s unanimous approval by the Senate Energy and Environmental Committee late last week.

Authored by Sen. Beverly Gard (R-Greenfield), who doubles in brass as the chair of said panel, the complicated bill seeks limit the use of water from the Great Lakes, and streams of our state.

It is long past due.

More complicated, under the heading of BAD NEWS, is House Joint Resolution 3, authored by Representative John Ulmer for the umpteenth time. It, basically, is aimed at giving hunters the right to hunt, fish and harvest game. The big problem revolves around Rep. Patrick Bauer, Speaker of the House. He assigns matters (bills and resolutions) to committees for action, and every time he faces the concept of hunt or fish rights he shuffles it off to a Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee which appears to have no members and does no business. It is, in short, a graveyard for matters Rep. Bauer whims no good. 

Well, HJR 14 (on this subject) was adopted in 2005 on votes of 83-15 in the House, and 41-6 in the Senate. But there was a hitch. Amending the state constitution, which this would do, requires that the matter must be adopted by two consecutives legislatures with a general election between them.

So last year (2007), Rep. Ulmer threw the matter in the hopper again and Rep. Bauer promptly deposited it in the sure-death panel where it expired.

This year Rep. Ulmer, somewhat undaunted, tossed the resolution out again. And Rep. Bauer promptly (for all practical purposes) again assigned it to the certain-death committee.

Now Dick Mercier, chairman of the Sportsmen’s Roundtable of Indiana, the state’s largest and strongest voice in conservation matters, is asking members of Hoosier Outdoor Writers (HOW) to intervene. I would have, anyhow. 

In his letter to members of HOW, Mercier says (in part):

“Neither John Ulmer nor the Indiana Sportsmen’s Roundtable believe that changing the Indiana Constitution should be taken the lightly, but as may be seen above, when we were able to get hearings and votes on the issue there was overwhelming support from the legislators. It appears to us that the Speaker of the House is holding hostage the over 1 million Hoosier citizens, who purchase 17 million dollars worth of sporting licenses each year. It is our position that the general public, in a referendum, should be the ones to rule whether a change is proper, not one heavy-handed individual.

“We would greatly appreciate it if you would be good enough to see that your readers have an opportunity to fully understand the situation and be able to convey their wishes, in this matter, to their legislators.”

I would add that a publication of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife agencies two years ago listed all Indiana hunting retail sales of $267,785,454 (that’s millions, folks) in 2001. Total multiplier effect for that year was $530,440,648. The report listed salaries and wages related to hunting as $122,231,233; jobs, 5085; sales and motor fuel taxes, $13,108,455; state income taxes, $3,006,079; and federal income taxes, $19,247,658.

Those figures are gleaned only from Hoosiers who vote, pay taxes, and hunt. Countless hundreds of thousands who fish, camp and recreate outdoors in many other ways pump untold zillions into the economy. 

Think, for example, what the fare would have been at the First Thanksgiving had the pilgrims not been hunters and anglers who tilled the soil.

Yes, outdoorsing is a very big thing.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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