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  • Writer's pictureGina Scrofano

Victory! NH House Passes Essential Fish and Game Bill

It has been quite the lengthy battle for those debating over SB 48, a bill which would establish a commission to study the efficiency and effectiveness of the Fish and Game Department.

The bill drew a decent amount of attention from New Hampshire stakeholders, as well as citizens.

Those in support of the bill, looking at it as the potential of great success for the Fish and Game, evolving its representation to equally include those who are hunters and non-hunters alike, thus ensuring the longevity of the Department as a whole.

And those in opposition, seeing the bill as a threat to the traditions they defend, even if it leads to the crumbling of the Fish and Game.

SB 48 was first passed unanimously by the Senate in March 2017, but was retained by the House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee for several months, followed by their vote of 12-4 in opposition last October.

The disappointing vote by the Committee, however, did not stop supporters of the bill, who continued to reach out to their House representatives.

That advocacy proved successful today, as after a short debate between the House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee members, Rep. Jonathan Manley (Hillsboro, D-03) and Rep. Richard McNamara (Hillsborough, D-38) speaking for, and Chairman James Webb (Rockingham, D-06) and Rep. Douglas Long (Merrimack, D-04) speaking against, the House overturned the Committee's vote to kill the bill; 160-177.

However, SB 48's bumpy ride was not over yet. Following that vote, was a purposed floor amendment introduced by Rep Manley.

Rep. Manley was one of the four committee members who voted in support of the bill back in October, however, he believed the Senate's version to be too broad. His floor amendment [2474h], curtails the bill from the study of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Fish and Game Department operations, governance, and management structure, to just the operations, and also slightly changing the requirements of those who will sit on the study commission.

This is seemingly more specific, although a thorough study of the operations would require a look at the Department's management structure and governance regardless, as those two aspects of the Department undeniably impact the finances; a stance Straight Twist has firmly taken since SB 48 was first introduced.

That amendment was adopted with a voice-vote. But it still wasn't over yet.

Following the adoption of Rep. Manley's amendment, Rep. J.R. Hoell (Merrimack, D-23), introduced his own [0034h], which would require that all of the study commission members carry a hunting or fishing license.

Let's be clear, this was a strategic attempt jeopardize the study by those in opposition to SB 48. It is a mathematical fact the the majority of NH residents are non-hunters, and as Rep. Manley pointed out on the House floor, Rep. Hoell's amendment would "exclude a lot of people from the general public" who otherwise could've been appointed by the Governor to sit on the study commission. It is important to note, however, that to the contrary of what some believe, there are many licensed hunters in NH who support SB 48.

Chairman Webb spoke in favor of Rep. Hoell's amendment, stating that it was better than the one that had just been adopted, saying the approved amendment was, "... cut and pasted and there really wasn't much thought put in there;" a bit of a dig at his committee member Rep. Manley.

Apparently, the House did not agree with Chairman Webb, nor approve of the restrictions of Rep. Hoell's amendment, because they voted against it with a vote of 145-193. Before the vote, Chairman Webb also requested a roll call, but not one representative seconded that motion.

Just when we thought the battle was won, Rep. Chris Christensen (Hillsborough, D-21) motioned to table the bill, basically meaning that the vote would be put 'on hold,' undoubtedly leading to the bill's death. That motion was met with vocal disapproval from many representatives, including a few very audible 'boos'. However, to follow House procedure, the motion to table had to be voted on.

Again, Chairman Webb spoke out against SB 48, urging the House to table the bill, referring to it as "bad legislation." Rep. Andrew White (Grafton, D-13) spoke in support of the bill, stating, "...the Committee recommendation was overturned, and the subsequent amendment was overwhelmingly adopted by [the] House..." Frankly meaning, the motion to table was unwarranted.

The majority of the House apparently agreed with White, because the table motion resulted in a vote of 164- 175, keeping SB 48 alive.

But Chairman Webb did not give up. At that point, he asked the Speaker a motion to have the bill returned to the House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee would be in order.

This led to another audible disapproval by the House, which was justifiable considering that the Committee voted to kill the bill after unproductively having it in their hands for over half a year.

Speaker Gene Chandler responded stating, "If you want to do it, it would require 2/3's", meaning, 2/3's vote by the House. At which point the House again made a clear vocal indication they were unhappy with this thought.

At that point, even the Speaker acknowledged that SB 48 just wasn't going down and followed up stating, "My sage advice is that's not going to happen."

The House responded with a good chuckle, and it was on to the final vote.

Following adrenaline-boosting suspense and after withstanding many blows, the House voted to pass as amended with a strong voice vote in support of SB 48, the bill that apparently, is made of steel.

So there you have it. The long topsy-turvy journey of SB 48 is nearing its end. Because the Senate and House have passed two different versions of the bill, they will have to come to a compromise and it must be signed by the Governor before it's officially implemented. After that, it's on to appointing commission members, and the study will commence. Looking at it from that perspective, one could state that at that point, SB 48's true journey will have just begun.

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