From Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the N.C. Wildlife Federation:
The congressional session that falls after the elections is referred to as the lame duck session, and this one is certainly living up to its name. Lame as in terrible and duck as in waterfowl.
Suffering through its lowest approval rating in history and with gridlock seemingly the only way of life in D.C., Congress is missing a prime opportunity to turn the tables with the 2012 Sportsmens Act. This ground-breaking legislation and the promise of bipartisanship that had buoyed its prospects has crashed and burned in a dizzying display of a broken system.
Prior to the Thanksgiving break, with whopping bipartisan support, the Senate voted 92-5 in support of the Sportsmens Act, a bill that would increase access for hunting and fishing and reaffirm the countrys commitment to habitat conservation. (Both N.C. senators, Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Kay Hagan, voted in favor.) The legislation had the support of the National Wildlife Federation, Wilderness Society, NRA, Ducks Unlimited and the N.C. Wildlife Federation. Among other things, the bill would have renewed the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, promoted better access to public lands for recreation and increased wetland habitat conservation for waterfowl by an increase in duck stamp revenues.
Now here is the lame part: Given all the support, the bill should have passed easily, giving all a victory and restoring a sense of cooperation. Party politics, however, killed it. Even though the bill would have actually decreased the national debt, albeit negligibly, it failed as one party decided to vote it down due to procedural rules.
The bill included a fee increase of a meager $10 on the federal duck stamp a fee strongly supported by the very sporting community that would pay it to hunt waterfowl. But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., determined that because the bill included revenues, it would be subject to the Budget Control Act of 2011 and thus the dysfunction kicked in.
A good bill simply got bogged down by party politics. The once bipartisan bill lost votes last week including Burrs and the duck stamp gets the blame, according to Republicans. The duck stamp is a voluntary stamp, required only to hunt waterfowl. Monies collected go toward wetlands conservation through the National Wildlife Refuge System.
In sporting vernacular, this dog just wont hunt! The Senate will have another opportunity to pass this legislation, if it truly wants it. When the bill comes back to the floor, senators should vote in support of conservation.
The views expressed in For The Record are the writers, and not necessarily those of the Observer editorial board.
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