2018 Legislative Wrap-up

By David Sneed

CCA NC Executive Director

The 2018 Legislative short session wrapped up on Friday, June 29th just in time for me to take a few days off to enjoy some time on the water with family and friends, and celebrate our country’s independence on July 4th. The adjournment agreement however, calls legislators back to Raleigh on November 27th, so technically any bills pending in committee could still be taken up when they return.

Of interest to sportsmen and women, SB 677, An Act to Amend the North Carolina Constitution to Protect the Right to Hunt, Fish and Harvest Wildlife passed both chambers and will be on the ballot for voters this fall.

“Sec. 38.  Right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife. The right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the State’s heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good. The people have a right, including the right to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly and rules adopted pursuant to authority granted by the General Assembly to (i) promote wildlife conservation and management and (ii) preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. Nothing herein shall be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights, or eminent domain.”

At one point, the bill had a provision that referenced “the regulation of commercial activities”, but the commercial fishing lobby complained and the wording was removed even though this bill in no way pertains to the commercial fishing industry. In fact, it has no bearing on coastal recreational fishing either. The bill refers to “wildlife” which by definition contained in state statute only refers to inland fish and game, “coastal fishing waters” are covered by separate definition.

Look for legal minds to weigh in on what bearing, if any, this Amendment will have on sportsmen as the “right” to hunt and fish being granted is then infringed upon by being “subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly and rules adopted pursuant to authority granted by the General Assembly”.

House Bill 361, Support Shellfish Industry, passed through the Senate with little opposition, but did not make it to the House floor for a vote after enough questions were raised by CCA NC and others about the effectiveness of the proposed legislation. For CCA NC, the potential loss of access to traditional hunting, fishing and boating waters by the public, including both recreational and commercial fishermen, far outweighed any of the economic development gains for the shellfish industry being touted by its primary sponsors, Sen. Bill Cook and Rep. Beverly Boswell. CCA NC supports working with all stakeholders to craft good legislation in 2019 that would actually help support our state’s developing oyster industry. HB361 could still resurface when the legislature returns on November 27th.

House Bill 1049, Support Sustainable Fisheries Communities, failed to even be heard by the House Wildlife Resources Committee. The bill was filed by Rep. Michael Speciale to dissolve the current MFC, replace them with new members, and strip the MFC of any regulatory authority.

House Bill 1063, Commercial Fishing License Reforms, also did not receive a hearing by the House Wildlife Resources Committee. The bill was introduced to support the changes in the commercial fishing license structure proposed to the legislature by the MFC at their February meeting. The bill also contained changes to the Recreational Commercial Gear License and recreational license fee increases to bring them in line with the inland fishing license fees.

We do not expect to see any further discussion of HB 1049 or HB 1063 this year.

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