The bill, A.722a, would ban hunting contests, competitions, tournaments or derbies in the state. Those who participate in these activities would be subject to up to a year in jail or fined up to $2,000.
The bill has been around since 2003 but was reintroduced this year with a Senate sponsor. Given the Democrats hold the majority in both houses, one of the most effective things my colleagues and I can do is point out flaws in the bill to keep it from advancing through the committee process and being brought to the floor for a vote. So far, the strategy is working. After the bill was reintroduced this year and problems were pointed out by my colleagues and the public, it was amended to allow for field trials--a sport regulated and licensed by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that allows hunting dogs to pursue wild game with their owners in a controlled setting. The bill now excludes field trials from the ban.
In another success, the Assembly Environmental Conservation committee last week decided not to vote on the bill after my colleagues voiced more concerns. Namely they pointed out that the bill is still too broad, too restrictive, and too punitive. In addition, they argued that the competitions should remain in the DEC's authority and management. As a result, the Majority members on the committee who are also some of the bill's sponsors agreed the bill needed further amending.
Despite these small victories the pushback has had, the fact remains that this bill and others like it are introduced on a regular basis and taking up our time in Albany. The push for these changes almost always comes from downstate Democrats. In this case, every sponsor on the bill except for one is from either New York City or Long Island and not where a majority of the competitions take place. In some cases, when questioned on bills like this, the sponsors admit they have not seen how the sports are conducted firsthand and often fail to have a full understanding of how the sports are currently regulated by the DEC or how they are beneficial. Last year, for example, a bill put forth by a New York City Democrat would have eliminated marksmen, archery, and shooting programs in schools. Thankfully many people from Upstate spoke out against the bill--including educators who train young students in schools--and prevented it from advancing to the floor.
I invite my Downstate colleagues to come to Upstate and see how these competitions are managed and regulated. In doing so, they would learn firsthand about some of the value these competitions provide. They are part of a long history of cultural traditions and family pastimes. For sportsmen and hunting clubs in rural communities, they provide much-needed funding. They also help control wildlife populations and provide habitat balance for some species like deer and squirrels. In addition, the competition day(s) have a positive impact on the region's businesses such as restaurants, gas stations and hotels. I can think of 1,000 other ways we can spend our time in Albany than debating bills like this.
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