Members of the Pennsylvania House Game and Fisheries Committee shot back at suggestions they were being bullied into stalling a bill that would make hunting legal on Sunday.
Senate Bill 147 would allow hunting on three Sundays of the year – one during deer rifle season, one during deer archery season and another that would be decided by the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission.
Pennsylvania is one of only three states to ban Sunday hunting, and it has since the commonwealth has been in existence – about 337 years, lawmakers said.
“I think it’s time we address this,” said Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny, the Democratic chairman. “Three-hundred and thirty-seven years is a long time.”
The bill has received bipartisan support and appeared to have strong support during the Tuesday afternoon, but some lawmakers were upset by the testimony of Harold Daub, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau had previously stated their opposition stemmed from a fear that hunters would trespass on farmers’ land. While the bill has trespassing provisions, the Farm Bureau would like for them to be stronger before the group would take a neutral position, Darrin Youker said.
The organization’s position was challenged by Daub.
“Is the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau bullying you as legislators into playing their game of running out the clock?” Daub asked.
Daub also accused the Farm Bureau of being opposed to the bill because they believed “people should be at church on Sunday” not because of trespassing concerns.
“While many of us agree that people should be in church, few of us want lawmakers infringing on our religious freedom,” Daub said.
Several lawmakers were vocal about their displeasure with Daub’s accusations, beginning with Rep. David Maloney, R-Berks, who said Daub could take a “sixth-grade” civics class to be reminded of what lawmakers do.
Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Philadelphia, said he came into the meeting as a “yes” vote.
“It’s going to be hard for me to cast that ‘yes’ this year just for the fact that someone says I am getting bullied,” Neilson said. “I won’t be bullied by his association or anybody.”
Reps. Barbara Gleim, R-Cumberland, said she was a member of the Farm Bureau and felt like Daub “threw the organization under the bus,” in his statements.
Daub tried to smooth over his rhetoric, saying he didn’t intend to insult anyone.
“That was a reference to phone calls I received from writers whose editors received phone calls not only asking to have their articles pulled but their columns and also a personal attack that happened to me,” Daub said. “I was not insinuating that you guys would be bullied. I was insinuating that they do bully.”
The committee also heard from the Keystone Trails Association, which opposes the bill, and from the National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Federation, which are in favor of it.
The bill passed the Senate in June and awaits action a future voting meeting