14 May CCA’s Spring Legislative Update
For the first time in many years, the legislative leadership paid real attention to the concerns of the recreational fishing community. CCANC members from across North Carolina participated in unprecedented numbers to make sure that their representatives understood that we need action to protect a resource that belongs to every North Carolina citizen. In order to address our concerns, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R – Rockingham) and House Speaker Thom Tillis (R – Mecklenburg) instituted a Marine Fisheries Study Committee to conduct a wide ranging study of fisheries issues.
The committee held four meetings in Raleigh, each of which was attended by a large contingent of CCANC members. Because House Bill 353 is eligible for consideration in the 2012 session, the committee chairs informed us early on that it would not be necessary for the game fish legislation to be included in the committee report.
Nevertheless, the committee asked for and received extensive testimony on the subject of game fish. For the first time, we were able to set forth in a public meeting, the reasons that we need game fish designation in North Carolina. Richard Andrews, Ray Brown, Jim Hardin, Chris Medlin, Seth Vernon and Donald Willis, Jr. addressed the committee on behalf of recreational anglers. Our thanks to them for making a compelling case for game fish status for redfish, spotted sea trout and striped bass.
In April, the committee issued a report recommending a ban on menhaden reduction fishing in North Carolina as well as a study of the potential merger of the Wildlife Resources Commission and the Division of Marine Fisheries. Both of these items are on CCANC’s agenda and we will be involved closely in the process as they move forward.
As expected, the committee did not include a recommendation on game fish in the report it issued last month. The chairs stated again that the legislature can use House Bill 353 if it wants to take up the game fish issue. However, despite the fact we believe the votes are there to pass it, we do not believe that the chances of it moving in the short session are good.
Speaker Tillis and President Pro Tem Berger have both told CCANC that they are supportive of game fish designation and that they want to see something happen on this issue. However, both also urged us to focus our efforts on the 2013 long session instead of pushing the issue in the May short session. Tillis and Berger have both stated publicly that the short session is going to last only 30-45 days and that it will be focused almost exclusively on budget issues. Game fish, like many other substantive issues, is being pushed to the session that begins in just eight months.
We are just as frustrated as you by the inaction on game fish legislation this year. However, we know we are making progress towards our goal. Unfortunately, the political process simply takes time. When the time is right we will call on our supporters to contact legislators and make it
clear that the marine resources of our state are best utilized for the greatest economic benefit of our citizens. Even though it may not feel like it today, we are in a better position than we have ever been. Stay the course !!