I know it’s perverse, but I love the legislative process. I left my job at the Sportsman’s Alliance, where I spent much of my time lobbying the Legislature, to write full time in 2011. I continued to attend legislative sessions to write about what was happening there, but I got frustrated just sitting in the audience. So I started testifying on bills.
By the next session, I was proposing bills, sponsored by various friends in the Legislature. And this year I’ve proposed 11 bills. Perhaps you will support some of these. I could use your help!
Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Benton, is sponsoring my bill on exotic animals. It would require a permit to possess all exotic animals in Maine and require the owners of exotics to notify their neighbors and the Maine Warden Service if their exotic animal gets loose. It seems incredible to me that you can be fined if your dog runs loose, but not your python.
Perhaps you read about the couple in Veazie who woke up to find a python in their shower. I would have died of a heart attack! That snake had escaped from a neighbor’s apartment a month earlier, but the neighbor was not obligated to let anyone know.
I remember another story about an 11-foot albino Burmese python that a lady in Orrington nearly stepped on while cleaning her greenhouse. It had gone missing four months before. A game warden said those large pythons “eat small pets. They can even pose a risk to small children.” Yikes!
I’ve submitted a bunch of fishing bills. Three are sponsored by Rep. Russell Black, R-Wilton. One bill would expand the opportunities to fish in the fall by opening up October fishing in areas where that is now prohibited, with strict catch-and-release rules. It will be very beneficial to sporting camps and others in rural Maine, and recognize that there are years, like this one, in which water levels were so low and temperatures so high that fishing in September was terrible. In fact, the Department of Inland Fisheries issued a press release urging us not to fish during the day.
Our second bill would protect and enhance spawning habitat for brook trout in our Heritage Waters. Right now, native and wild brook trout are protected in a list of ponds, through fishing and stocking restrictions, but the tributaries where these fish spawn are not protected. We also submitted a bill to strengthen the process of adding native brook trout waters to the State Heritage list.
Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, sponsored my bill to create a hatchery commission to assess and evaluate the state’s fish hatcheries, including distribution capabilities, opportunities, needs, and contributions to Maine’s economy. No major expenditures over $150,000 could be made to repair or upgrade IF&W’s hatcheries until the report is received and acted on by the Legislature. A lot of problems in our state hatcheries were identified by a national consulting firm last year, but nothing has been done to implement the firm’s recommendations, and one hatchery closed last year after it lost its water supply.
Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, is sponsoring my bill on wild game dinners. While the Warden Service looks the other way, and often participates in them, it is illegal in Maine to charge people for a wild game dinner. This bill will make these dinners legal.
Saviello is also sponsoring my bill to require landowner permission to pick crops such as mushrooms and fiddleheads on private land. It’s particularly wrong that you can commercially harvest a crop on someone else’s land, without permission.
Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, is sponsoring my bill to eliminate the turkey hunting permit and fee, allow online and phone tagging of harvested turkeys, and expand the bag limits to three toms in the spring season and three birds of either sex in the fall season. Less than 20,000 of us hunt turkeys, and we really need to encourage more hunters to do that.
Rep. Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town, is sponsoring my bill to create a commission and charge it with returning to the Legislature in 2018 with a list of recommendations that will simplify Maine’s fishing laws and rules. It’s no secret that anglers have a hard time figuring out our complicated laws and rules — the new 2017 fishing rules book is 62 pages long.
Rep. Gary Hilliard, R-Belgrade, is sponsoring my bill to create a comprehensive hunting and fishing license for those of us who prefer to make one purchase, rather than buy all those special permits.
Finally, Rep. Peter Lyford, R-Eddington, is sponsoring my bill to dedicate all the money raised from the moose lottery and permits to research and management of moose. The new draft moose management plan acknowledges that more money is needed for moose research.
Yes, I’ll be spending a lot of time at the Legislature. Come on down and join me!