The Bipartisan Sportsman’s bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), died in the U.S. Senate last Thursday, a victim of senators attaching politically charged amendments onto a piece of legislation that got glowing reviews in both houses of Congress and support across-the-board from sportsman’s groups.
The U.S. Senate voted 41-56 not to “revoke cloture” and end debate on the bill, which brought together a handful of pieces of legislation, all of which involved issues dealing with wildlife and resources. Hagan and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) were the main sponsors of the bill, which had as co-sponsors 43 senators – 25 Republicans and 18 Democrats – and had already passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
The legislation would have:
· * Allowed states to provide federal duck stamps electronically. E-duck stamps would be valid for 45 days to allow time for the physical stamps to arrive in the mail.
· * Required federal land managers to consider how management plans affect hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting and require the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to keep lands open to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, and facilitate the use of and access to federal public lands and waters for these activities.
· * Exempted lead fishing tackle from being regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
· * Enabled states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands.
· * Permitted the Secretary of the Interior to authorize permits for re-importation of legally harvested polar bears from approved populations in Canada before the 2008 ban.
· * Set clear criteria on what constitutes “normal agricultural practices” by having the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refer to local U.S. Department of Agriculture extension offices for the determination.
The Senate had voted 82-12 last week to move the bill ahead, but it foundered after senators from both parties tried to add controversial amendments – many of them involved with gun-control and gun-ownership rights – before the final vote. A total of 81 amendments were submitted on the bill, 55 by Republicans and 26 by Democrats.
No Republicans voted to proceed with the bill Thursday after Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, went ahead with the vote before an agreement on amendments could be reached.
Included in that number was Sen. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem, who had proposed an amendment to allow for better public access to beaches along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, then voted to kill the bill.
Hagan was understandably disappointed.
"I worked with Sen. Murkowski to craft a package of bills that would garner strong support within the Senate in addition to a wide range of stakeholders, and the fact that this bill is cosponsored by 44 other Senators from both parties speaks to the overwhelming support for the policies in the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2014,” Hagan said in a statement her office released.
“I believe the Senate should have considered sportsmen-related amendments, including those dealing with gun issues important to sportsmen and women, and I am disappointed that politics prevented us from reaching an agreement this week. However, I will continue working with Sen. Murkowski and my colleagues to find a path forward so that this bill that benefits hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts in North Carolina and across the nation doesn't fall victim to political posturing."
The National Shooting Sports Foundation had called the Hagan-Murkowski bill “simply the most important package of measures for the benefit of sportsmen in a generation.”
The U.S. Sportsman's Alliance concurred.
“Sportsmen should be disappointed today that this critically important package of bills was the victim of a long-running fracture over amendments between senators,” said Evan Heusinkveld, vice president of government affairs for USSA. “Hunting, fishing and the future of wildlife conservation in this country is not a political issue and we hope that the leadership of the Senate will allow this bill to be brought up with a clean and fair amendment process.”