Thursday, July 10, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

"Leaf Peepers" Revenge

Forget about vouchers, State Stores, Marcellus Shale. A hot issue bubbling up in Harrisburg is pitting hunters against "leaf peepers."

"Leaf Peepers" Revenge

Forget about vouchers, Marcellus shale, State Stores and transportation funding. State lawmakers are taking aim at another issue likely to create surefire feuds across the state.

I'm talking about a bill to lift the current restriction on hunting on Sundays.

Surprisingly (to me), Pennsylvania, a land of duck blinds and deer jerky, is NOT among the 43 states that already allow some form of Sunday hunting.

So the House Game & Fisheries Committee is holding hearings on legislation to change that.

Thursday's hearing went four hours. It was the third such hearing this year. And guess what? It's possible the bill won't pass.

That's due, at least in part, to testimoney from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which represents some 50,000 farm and rural families, opposing the notion.

The bureau's government relations director, Joel Rotz, told the committee that "leaf peepers," those who like to go out to look at fall foilage, join with farmers in opposing Sunday hunting.

Opponents cite safety concerns, religious observance and, generally, the idea of a day of peace and quiet, arguing hunters have six days, others should have one day free from gun blasts.

But a former Ohio wildlife official, Mike Budzik, told the committee that since Sunday hunting was phased into that state in 2002, "We haven't shot any horseback riders...we haven't shot any horses. We haven't shot any mushroom pickers or berry pickers or `leaf peepers,' whatever they are."

Today's Harrisburg Patriot-News carries extensive coverage of the hearing, and the online news service capitolwire.com quotes Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lackawanna, as calling the measure "a jobs bill."

He and other backers point to a Legislative Budget & Finance Committee study saying that Sunday hunting could mean an additional $800 million in economic activity, supporting 7,400 jobs.

Still, without the support of the state's rural communty, passage remains up in the air.

The bill's sponsor (and committee chairman), Rep. John Evans, R-Crawford County, says, "I think we would have the votes if they (the farm bureau) would just stay neutral."

Others suggest compromises such as a trial period, limiting Sunday hunting to state game lands or allowing it only during deer rifle season or archery season.

With close to 1 million hunters in the state, I'm thinking this is an issue that could escalate, maybe to the point we even see "revenge of the leaf peepers" as they occupy hunting lands.

 

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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