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  Comments (1) Total Thursday Apr. 24, 2014
Death by Duck Stamp?
Like I Was Sayin...
Last week, a popular bill that would expand access for hunters and anglers and had previously enjoyed bipartisan support was blocked in the U.S. Senate for reasons no one quite understands. For now, duck stamps are being blamed. Yes, duck stamps.

The Sportsmen’s Act, whose lead sponsor is Montana Sen. Jon Tester, appeared to have so much momentum that its backers had looked past the Nov. 26 vote and instead were beginning to focus on how to get it through the House of Representatives. After all, it’s rare legislation is supported by the National Rifle Association, The Wilderness Society and the White House.

The act, which is a collection of more than a dozen bills, is designed to increase access for hunters and anglers to public lands and protect habitat, among other sportsmen-related measures.

There was opposition to a few provisions, but not much. And that’s not why the bill failed. No, the point of contention was over the price of a duck stamp, which would likely rise from $15 to $25 if the Sportsmen’s Act passed. Hunters buy the stamps each season and affix them to their state license. The federal government has sold them, since birds migrate across state lines, since 1943. The price of one has remained the same since 1991 and money raised is used to buy wetlands for migratory waterfowl.

Hunters and conservationists largely supported the increase. But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., objected to it by referencing the Budget Control Act of 2011, which limits spending. And a motion to waive the point of order fell 10 votes short of the required 60. To be clear, the Congressional Budget Office has said the legislation would not add to the deficit. Any additional spending would be paid by the stamp increase.

Following the bill’s defeat over a relatively obscure technicality, sportsmen groups were stunned.

“Adding salt to the wound is that the increase is strongly supported by waterfowl hunters who champion the user pay-user benefit concept for fish and wildlife conservation along with all sportsmen and women as well as the fishing and hunting industries,” Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association, said.

“I was surprised and I was hugely disappointed as an American that they could not cooperate on a hugely bipartisan bill,” Vaughn Collins, legislative director for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, told Politico.

The NRA had predicted “quick action” in the hours leading up to the vote. But that didn’t happen. Legislation that had at one time enjoyed support of more than 80 senators fell victim to Senate dysfunction.

It likely didn’t help that earlier on Nov. 26, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had pushed for filibuster reform. This is the same Reid who opposed filibuster reform when he was in the minority. Perhaps the preceding partisan bickering was enough to pick a fight over duck stamps.

There is still time to save the Sportsmen’s Act, which has been described as the biggest public-lands bill in a generation. According to Gannett, Sessions’ “phone in his Washington office rang steadily Tuesday [the day after the vote] as Alabama hunters and outdoorsmen called to complain.”

For Sessions’ part, he said a deal could still happen. His staff met with Tester’s to see if something could be worked out. And Tester, while disappointed, remained optimistic in interviews following the vote.

“I will continue to press to get it through the Senate on behalf of every sportsman and woman around the country,” he said in a statement.

But after serving six years in the Senate, Tester should know better. The self-proclaimed “world’s greatest deliberative body” is now anything but. And it’s best not to expect much from it.
On 12-15-12, reggie commented....
Just further proof that unprecetented abuse of the filibuster by republican obstructionists must be forceably stopped with the first action of the new senate. This is an excelent example that even many on the stubborn right are forced to identify with. Welcome to the frustration of…
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