Harrisburg — As the new chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, state Sen. Greg Rothman, R-Cumberland County, could see some significant legislation come across his desk this year.
There is movement in the House to introduce a bill to return the deer season opening day back to Monday, and state Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, has said he plans to bring back his bill to give the Pennsylvania Game Commission the authority to implement expanded Sunday hunting.
Both measures have generated a significant amount of debate, and if they do reach Rothman’s committee, he said he is ready to listen to all involved.
“I read the letters and I take all the calls I can,” he said. “The best way to get the attention of a legislator is to talk to them, and I will be accessible.”
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After serving seven years in the House, Rothman begins his first term in the Senate with an appointment he said was unexpected.
As a hunter and angler himself, Rothman said being named chair of the Game and Fisheries Committee is a great honor, and he will lean on Laughlin, who was the previous chair and will remain on the committee, along the way.
But Rothman does have his own grasp on the issues facing hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania, and he tackled some of them while serving in the House.
“I supported Sunday hunting while in the House. If the objective is to do everything we can to create the best experience possible for hunters, that’s a good thing,” Rothman said.
“But I also heard the opinion of farmers and why they didn’t want it, and I appreciate their standpoint. It wasn’t a simple decision for me.”
In regard to the deer season opener, Rothman reflected on his time in college years ago when a roommate from New Jersey was impressed with Pennsylvania’s traditional Monday opener and the fact that schools were closed on that day.
Rothman is aware of the current debate that has peaked since state Rep. Brian Smith, R-Punxsutawney, said he will introduce a bill to change the opener from Saturday back to Monday.
Where does Rothman stand on the opening day issue?
“I understand the tradition of the Monday and those who say Saturday gives them more time on the weekend,” he said. “Right now, I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but this is a great opportunity to hear from people and get a consensus.”
And Rothman wants to hear from all groups involved in the debate, including businesses and deer processors in addition to hunters.
“For deer processors, maybe they were used to having that Saturday and Sunday off to get ready for the Monday opener, and hunters having the time to get to their cabins. I’m curious to hear from all of them,” he said.
“If the majority want Saturday instead of Monday, or if the majority want it back to Monday, the consensus would be my position.”
Rothman also stressed the importance of partnering with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Fish & Boat Commission to let them do their jobs, but it needs to be balanced with a degree of oversight.
Rothman’s hunting roots date back to his childhood going on pheasant hunt on his grandfather’s farm in Lower Paxton Township.
He didn’t hunt for 10 years while serving in the Marines, but has since returned to the sport. While issues directly impacting hunters and anglers are important, Rothman said he also wants to consider the economic benefits the sports provide to the state.
“Tourism is a big part of our economy, and hunting and fishing are parts of that,” he said.
“We want to attract people to come to our state.”
As far as Rothman’s counterpart in the House, no one had been named to chair the House Game and Fisheries Committee as of Jan. 7.
With a new speaker and several vacant districts placing party majority in question, it’s not known when committee assignments will be made in the House.
One name that has been mentioned as a possible chairman for the House Game and Fisheries Committee is state Rep. Dave Maloney, R-Berks County.
Maloney has served on the committee since 2011 and said he’s heard talk that he’s being considered for the chair and he would gladly accept the post.
“I’m in line for it, and I’d be honored to accept the position,” he said. “But until it’s official or there’s confirmation, I don’t know for sure what’s going to happen.”