Session ends with lack of action

Youth hunting bill, others stalled in committee

Albany — State lawmakers were poised to leave town last week at the close of a session that could only be called unproductive.

About the only agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Sen. Jeffrey Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, was that lawmakers would not remain in Albany past June 16.

Their departure at press time left scores of sporting-related bills – notably one that would lower the minimum hunting age for deer and bear from the current 14 to 12 – stalled in committee.

Conservation Fund Advisory Board Chairman Jason Kemper said ahead of the end of the legislative session he was “sure things are not going to happen.”

Kemper told the board he and board member Charlie Pace met last month with Deputy Secretary for the Environment Venetia Lannon and Rajiv Shah, senior policy advisor for the environment, and while he sensed “strong support” from the governor’s office the bill – Senate Bill 5434 and its Assembly companion, A8358 – would not make it out of committee this year.

That support from the governor’s office, he said, is critical in advancing any legislation.

“Without that support, things are very, very difficult,” Kemper said.

The bill to lower the minimum hunting age for big game was a “legislative priority” of the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, which is designed to provide a unified voice on sporting issues.

The legislation did, in fact, receive some movement, advancing to a “third reading” in the Senate environmental conservation committee. But it was never moved out of the committee to the full Senate for a vote.

Typically, sporting-related bills move more smoothly through the Senate instead of the Democrat-dominated Assembly.

While the 12-year-old minimum hunting age legislation stalled, so, too, did legislation that would expand crossbow use into the entire archery season.

Those bills – S7005 and A9623 – would also allow 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt with a crossbow; eliminate the 200-pound draw weight maximum; and permit crossbows to be discharged within 150 feet of a dwelling (the same as compound bows).

The New York Crossbow Coalition made a final push to get the bill to the Senate and/or Assembly floor, urging its members to call the offices of Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly environmental conservation committee chairman Steve Englebright to push the bills forward.

“In 2014 we were successful in getting the crossbow language we have today in the 11th hour by our members and their friends lighting up the phones in Albany,” a coalition email read. “This is a long shot, but with everyone working together, we can make this happen again in 2016.”

Legislation that would remove the requirement that hunters wear their licenses on their back also appeared destined to die in the Senate and Assembly environmental conservation committees.

Hunters in the Northern Zone of the state are not required to wear a back tag. New York is the lone state in the nation that still requires a back tag be worn.

One piece of hunting-related legislation that did pass both the Senate and Assembly and is headed to the governor for his signature is a bill that approves the use of fluorescent pink as an option to blaze orange for youth hunters.

New York doesn’t mandate the use of blaze orange clothing by adult hunters but does so for 14- and 15-year-olds and their adult mentors during the youth deer hunt.

The 2016 legislative session was seen by most as an unproductive one overall. Late action did lead to agreements on a package to address heroin and opioid abuse in the state; expand breast cancer treatment and screening; and improve safety at railroad crossings.

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