NH House Committee Puts Crucial Wildlife Bill On Hold - Full House Votes Tomorrow
HB 1412-FN, a bill that would protect the wild animals and residents of the Granite State from egregious acts of cruelty, was once again put on hold by the House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee, despite the overwhelming support of the bill's intent. The bill's survival now lies in the hands of the Full House, who are set to vote on the bill tomorrow, February 8th.
Last year, a bill (HB 381-FN) was introduced into the NH House of Representatives. That bill would have rectified a loophole in current law which leaves NH's free-roaming wild animals unprotected from purposeful acts torture and mutilation, such as setting a porcupine on fire, or beating a skunk to death with a baseball bat.
Chief Robert Cormier, 2016 President of NH Chiefs of Police, testified that currently when NH residents call them because of witnessing cruelty to wildlife, they have to tell them there is nothing they can do, as there is no current applicable law.
David Goldstein, Franklin NH Chief of Police also testified that in 2016 the FBI began tracking acts of violence against animals due to compelling evidence of a link between animal cruelty and acts of violence against humans; an alarming majority of those who torture animals, have also been proven to harm humans. Thus, the bill protects NH residents as well.
Although not one individual who testified on that bill, nor one committee member themselves, expressed opposition to the intent of the bill, the Committee voted against it by a vote of (12-9).
This year, a nearly identical bill, HB 1412-FN was also assigned to the House Fish and Game Committee. And again, not one individual during the public hearing expressed opposition to the intent to protect wildlife from cruelty, but some were uncomfortable with the language.
HB 1412-FN does not impact the right of residents to protect their safety or crops from wild animals, nor the rights of residents to remove nuisance animals from their homes.
HB 1412-FN also explicitly excludes the entire Fish and Game Code (Title XVIII), which means it does not impede upon any lawful hunting, trapping, bating, hounding or angling.
However, opposition insisted that the bill did not provide enough protection to sportsmen and women and that it should not be part of NH's Criminal Code (Title LXII, RSA 644:8, the law the bill would amend), but it should be placed directly in Title XVIII itself.
The opposition also asserted that the concept of 'non-captive' wildlife was too confusing. HB 1412-FN originally referred to protecting non-captive wildlife, as the current cruelty code (RSA 644:8), protects domestic animals and wildlife in captivity (animals that are lawfully in the custody of individuals, such as those in zoos, sanctuaries, etc.). Although non-captive would simply apply to all free-roaming wild animals in NH, which were not considered domestic or captive, opposition found it utterly incomprehensible.
Enter the Fish and Game Department's amendment.
During the executive session for HB 1412-FN, the House Fish and Game Committee began to discuss the bill before a vote. At that time the Committee was advised that the NH Fish and Game Dept. drafted an amendment.
Col. Kevin Jordan, Fish and Game's Chief of Law Enforcement, explained that the amendment he drafted would place the bill directly in NH Fish and Game Code (Title XVIII), as opposition suggested. It would also resolve the 'non-captive' wildlife confusion, as it refers to any 'wild animal, fish or wild bird', as opposed to using the term 'non-captive', removing that issue entirely. (Title XVIII, RSA 207:1 defines wildlife as, all species of mammals, birds, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, invertebrates, reptiles or their progeny or eggs which, whether raised in captivity or not, are normally found in a wild state.)
Although Col. Jordan was present and willing to share his amendment with the Committee, and Rep. Reed, who had drafted an amendment herself, expressed that she would replace her's with that of the Fish and Game Dept.; making it available to the Committee that afternoon, Chairman Webb would not allow it.
The nearly identical bill (HB 381-FN) was in the hands of the House Fish and Game Committee for ten months. Despite that, as well as the fact that there was a public hearing on January 16th, in which HB 1412-FN was discussed in great detail as well, Chairman Webb (Rockingham, Dist-6) expressed that discussing the Fish and Game Dept.'s amendment would be far too complicated for them to attempt during the executive session.
Rep. Martineau (Hillsborough, Dist 42) disagreed stating, "I've seen the proposed amendment from Fish and Game; it's literally three long sentences. I don't think it would be difficult for us to go ahead and get it drafted, presented and exec'd [voted on] today."
Rep. Klose (Merrimack, Dist 21) immediately followed Martineau's opinion with blatant disagreement, boldly stating a somewhat confusing comment that discussing the bill and amendments at the same time was just too much for them to handle. "That's a lot to digest," he said, "We shouldn't be getting 5-2 to 3 minutes to get a bill we're gonna discuss, now all of a sudden we're getting an amendment" ... "Today's the day for the bill, to discuss the bill, ya know, we're gonna be tied up with amendments."
Both Rep. MacNamara (Hillsborough, Dist 38) and Rep. Martineau pointed out the Committee's vote on HB 1412-FN wasn't due until the following week, suggesting they wait if they needed more time and vote on January 30th.
Rep. Read (Rockingham, Dist-17) pointed out that the committee has never had problems 'digesting' amendments during executive sessions in the past. She stated, "We exec'd a bill just last week, shortly after hearing it and it was a little bit longer than the amendment that we're talking about. So, I think we're capable of understanding it really quickly."
Rep. Harvey (Cheshire, Dist-01) concurred stating, "I absolutely agree, I came here to work. I'm okay with it, whether it comes later today, or first thing next week. That's my job right now, so let me do it."
Despite the logical perspective expressed to review the amendment provided by the Fish and Game Dept. and vote on January 30th, Chairman Webb disagreed, and the Committee collectedly voted to place HB 1412-FN in an interim study by a vote of 12-7.
The bill will now face the Full House on Thursday, February 8th, with a higher hurdle to jump. When House Representatives view a bill coming from a Committee claiming it needed further study time, they're more likely to vote along with the Committee, which will place the bill back into the hands of the House Fish and Game Committee, as opposed to getting it passed as it should.
Putting the bill back in the hands of the House Fish and Game Committee is a risk, as the Committee as a whole has been unproductive with this bill, as well as previous bill, HB 381-FN. Although there was a subcommittee work session by the Committee for HB 381-FN last year, it lasted less than an hour, and it was used to discuss killing the bill rather than possible amendments. (Rep. Spillane and Rep. Long (Merrimack, Dist-04) voted to kill the bill and Rep. John Manley (Hillsborough, Dist-03) voted to retain it.)
To make matters worse, the majority report submitted to the House of Representatives, by Rep. Spillane, who was not in attendance the date of the public hearing, is full of misleading and incorrect information. His report indicates that the majority of the Committee believes current law (RSA 644:8) protects animals from cruelty, however, omits the fact that the law does not protect free-roaming wildlife. The report also indicates that the Fish and Game Dept. continues to oppose the bill, additionally omitting that the Fish and Game Dept. drafted an amendment themselves, which addresses all their initial concerns.
The Bottom Line
The House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee doesn't need further time to study this matter, which has been discussed for over a year. Rep. Read's floor amendment, which was drafted by the Fish and Game Department themselves, is a compromise, which explicitly addresses the concerns expressed by the opposition. The amendment provides additional clarification, removing the need to decipher the meaning of 'non-captive' and further safeguards the rights of sportsmen and women, while also maintaining prevention of egregious acts of violence against our valued wildlife and residents of the Granite State, which our legislative leaders have the responsibility to protect.
No more claims of difficulty understanding simple concepts. No more blatant disregard for the direr need of this bill and its overwhelming support. No more allowing NH animals to suffer cruelty without consequence. No more excuses. It's time to get this done.
Kindly Email The House Of Representatives
Preferably TODAY (Feb 7th) By 12am - Feb 8th by 8am the latest.
Email Address: email@example.com
Note: If you have email addresses for your own representatives, please email them using those addresses, in addition to using the above address.
Subject: Support Read's Floor Amendment to HB 1412-FN
Example: "As a NH resident, I'm writing to you to kindly urge your support of HB 1412-FN, relative to cruelty to non-captive wildlife, by overturning the committee vote to put the bill in interim study, so that Rep. Read may introduce the floor amendment (2018-0337h), and pass the the bill with that amendment, which was drafted by the NH Fish and Game Department.
This bill would rectify a loophole in NH law, which currently applies to domestic and wild animals in captivity only, by providing protection for free-roaming wild animals in our state from egregious acts of cruelty, which also have been proven by the FBI to be linked to acts of violence against humans.
Rep. Read's floor amendment (which can be found in House Calendar No. 5, pg 67) addresses concerns by the opposition, by placing the bill in the Fish and Game Code (NH RSA Title XVIII), further simplifying the bill's language and ensuring the rights of sportsmen and woman are not impeded upon.
With 45 states in America providing protection to non-captive wildlife, including those actively partaking in hunting and trapping activity, such as Maine, I believe it is essential that NH join them, and protect the wildlife and residents of the Granite State."