R's Ask Leadership to NOT RUN Sunday Hunting Bill
Republicans Control the Fate of Sunday Hunting in Pennsylvania
By: Evan Heusinkveld, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Director of State Services
The governments of thirty-nine states permit sportsmen to hunt on Sundays and land owners to decide whether to permit hunting on Sundays on their own land. In an ironic twist of fate, the outcome of legislation that would make Pennsylvania the 40th state to join that list rests almost entirely in the hands of Republican lawmakers.
This is a mathematical truth because the GOP controls the House of Representatives where House Bill 1760 currently is being heard before the Game and Fisheries Committee. Reports from the organizations who are working to pass the bill all tell the same story: Committee Democrats in the House are largely in favor of the bill, with perhaps one or two dissensions. So this is not an issue of simple math. The Republicans do not want to pass a bill that will highlight their weak support for sportsmen in contrast to the Democrats.
The concern rests with House Republicans, who are evenly divided on the issue at best. Squeezed between the request of sportsmen and the opposition of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, many Republican legislators have purportedly asked House leadership to quietly prevent the bill from ever coming to a vote.
Mathematically speaking, the bill could pass committee with less than half of the Republicans members voting in favor, but that would also send a message about how strong – or in this case, weak - support is for sportsmen in their ranks. That would not be a very positive message at all.
Normally able to line up easily behind second-amendment issues to attract support from sportsmen, this battle has GOP members caught between groups that Republicans typically court rather easily. It has been a bit messier yet as some landowners and farmers have confided that they are actually in favor of Sunday hunting, while some sportsmen are opposed.
But that is the beauty of this bill, and our country in general. If House Bill 1760 becomes law, land owners can still prohibit hunting on their own land. And sportsmen are certainly not forced to go hunting on Sundays if they don’t want to. The passage of HB 1760 would simply put the choice in the hands of sportsmen and landowners rather than the government. Less government control is certainly a concept ripped right out of GOP talking points, is it not?
And let’s not forget that the current law prohibits hunting on PUBLIC land - paid for and maintained with sportsmen dollars. That is simply a gross injustice.
The vice in which the Farm Bureau holds many Republican lawmakers doesn’t just pit them against sportsmen either. It also pushes them toward ignoring what is good for job creation and the Commonwealth’s economy - a key platform for the party.
Multiple studies have shown that passing this bill would be a boon for the state. The latest report, done by the NON PARTISAN Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, shows Sunday hunting would have an $800 million annual impact on Pennsylvania’s economy, producing 7,500 jobs and $57 million in tax revenues to local town and state coffers, thus relieving some of the burden from taxpayers. And these numbers are in line with previous studies. Economically, this bill is a no-brainer.
So like most things involving government these days, this issue will ultimately boil down to politics. Minority Chairman Ed Staback (Democrat – Eynon) has long been a champion for Sunday hunting, and has rallied his members in support of HB 1760. On the other side, Majority Chairman John Evans (Republican – Erie) has taken a courageous stand by sponsoring the bill this year, but he is going to need support from his fellow Republicans, as he indicated in a recent article by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Voting pro-second amendment usually comes easy to most GOP legislators who tend to come from the more rural areas of the state. The vote for HB 1760 will take more courage. It will mean disagreeing with a longtime ally in the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. However, it will be a vote in favor of less government. It will be a vote in favor of giving sportsmen and their families more opportunity to do what they love. It will be a vote in favor of more jobs and more money infused into our economy. And that is exactly what Pennsylvania sportsmen are counting on from Republicans because they know the fate of this bill lies in their hands.
The man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic. ~Roosevelt