Trio of rifle bills set for Cuomo signature

Albany — New York’s rifle zone will continue to expand across much of New York with the passage of several bills now awaiting the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

A flurry of action in the final week of the legislative session resulted in the approval of several bills that would allow rifle hunting for big game in additional counties, or at least a portion of those counties.

Rifles, pending Gov. Cuomo’s signature, will be allowed for big-game hunting in Ontario and Wayne counties until Oct. 1, 2015 – essentially a two-year trial period, at which time legislation could be in place to make the rifle provision permanent.

Two other bills – one involving Wyoming County and the other a portion of Chautauqua County – were approved making rifle use permanent after similar two-year trial runs.

All indications are the governor will sign the bills into law, but possibly not until after the publication of the DEC’s hunting and trapping regulations guide.

“I believe the governor will have these bills to consider prior to the final publication of the guides,” DEC assistant director of fish, wildlife and marine resources Doug Stang said. “We are updating the guide information as they go through their final passes of review, so we will be close.”

If the bills aren’t signed into law before the hunting guide for 2013-14 goes to press, it won’t be a major issue, since it’s a less restrictive regulation. In recent years a similar scenario took place when rifle bills in other counties were approved at the end of the legislative session and were signed into law by the governor later in the summer and ahead of the fall hunting season.

Typically, the rifle bills are among a laundry list of approved legislative proposals that are sent to the governor’s desk with other “home rule” bills. A flurry of activity in the final days of the legislative session generally results in scores of bills to be considered by the governor.

That was the case again this session. Rifle use bills often encounter snags en route to final approval, and the Wyoming County proposal this year was approved in April by the Senate, followed by Assembly approval June 17.

But that Assembly bill wasn’t a companion bill to the Senate version, forcing an amendment to the Senate proposal and a re-introduction for a second vote.

Ontario County’s rifle bill was approved after several previous efforts, including proposals calling for rifle use in just a portion of the county, fell short of becoming law. Several years ago then-Gov. David Paterson vetoed legislation that would have allowed rifle use in Ontario County amid confusion as to whether the bill was intended to allow rifle use countywide instead of just the southern portion of the county.

The Senate version of this year’s Ontario bill was sponsored by Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-C-I Fayette, while Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-C-I Canandaigua, sponsored the Assembly bill.

The Ontario County board of supervisors earlier this year passed a resolution in support of allowing rifles for big-game hunting.

Rifle use has expanded throughout New York state in recent years through legislative action. In addition to all of the state’s Northern Zone, rifles are now allowed in most of the Southern Tier, with the exception of Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, Schenectady, Albany, Onondaga, Tompkins, Seneca, Wayne, Ontario, Livingston, Monroe, Orleans Genesee Niagara, Erie and parts of Chautauqua and Broome counties.

Rifles are also permitted in the sections of Washington, Herkimer, Fulton, Oneida and Oswego counties which lie in the Southern Zone.

Other rifle bill proposals – those involving Rockland, Albany and Livingston counties – failed to gain legislative approval this year. Typically, rifle bills are re-introduced the following year for consideration by state lawmakers.

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