Sportsmen Take State House Leadership Posts
Several outstanding Maine sportsmen have taken key positions at the State House.
Attorney General William Schneider loves to hunt and enjoyed a great experience this year in Arizona where he took an Antelope. At the State House last week, Bill was obviously excited about his planned 2011 hunt – his first in Africa. Bill, who doesn’t let his wheelchair slow him down, has lined up an outfitter with a special van that will get him into some great hunts in South Africa. Bill is a long-time member of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM).
Secretary of State Charlie Summers is also a hunter. When he served in the State Senate, Charlie arrived very excited one morning to tell me that he’d shot a coyote that morning – right out his bathroom window in Scarborough!
Speaker of the House Bob Nutting is an avid deer hunter. He told Susan Cover, State House reporter for Central Maine Newspapers, “Hunting is great training for the Legislature. You need to go sit on a stump out in the woods, just sitting there listening and thinking for hours.” The Speaker has been a life member of SAM since 1982.
Sportsmen have a strong presence in both the House and Senate and will have no problem filling the 13 positions on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. In fact, House positions on the committee are particularly competitive this year with many new legislators expressing a preference for the committee that gets all of the legislature’s hunting and fishing bills.
The House chair of the IFW Committee will be Representative Paul Davis, a veteran legislator who once served as the top Republican leader in the Senate. Davis serves as SAM’s Treasurer. Although Senator David Trahan wanted to chair the IFW Committee, this veteran Senator is more likely to chair one of the major committees, probably Taxation. He is likely to serve as the second Republican Senator on the IFW Committee, however.
Eleven members of the IFW Committee last session return this session to the House and Senate: Senators Troy Jackson and Dave Trahan, and Representatives Herb Clark, Jane Eberle, Sheryl Briggs, Michael Shaw, Paul Davis, Everett McLeod, Ralph Sarty, and Dale Crafts – plus former Representative Tom Saviello who was elected to the Senate this year. Most will likely return to the IFW Committee, although the number of Democrats on the committee will be reduced and the number of Republicans increased. So a few new faces will be seen there.
Saviello will leave the IFW Committee to serve as Senate chair of the Natural Resources Committee.
Committee members won’t be officially selected until after the legislature meets on December 17 to take up rule changes and consider proposals to combine some legislative committees.
While the final deadline for filing bills has been extended into January, a lot of legislation has already been filed, and the bills I’ve learned about so far would bring major changes to hunting and fishing in Maine and the agency that regulates those activities.
Senator Trahan has already filed a bill for a Constitutional amendment that would provide and protect public tax dollars to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. This legislation is a top priority for SAM, The Nature Conservancy, and Maine Audubon.
A group of outdoor leaders is working on a significant bill to rebuild Maine’s deer herd. A state conference this week is designed to prepare a comprehensive landowner relations program for the legislature to consider. Major changes are being discussed for the way fisheries are managed – including serious consideration of privatizing IFW’s fish hatcheries, an idea that Governor-elect Paul LePage endorsed in his election campaign.
When the legislature was in town on December 1 to get sworn in, I heard talk about a wide range of bills from creation of a spring bear hunt to year-round open water and ice fishing.
The year 2011 will be interesting!