I'm glad our state legislators have such a keen interest in hunting and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Whether I agree with them or not, every time I see a bill regarding hunting introduced – whether it's Sunday hunting or increasing the fee for a hunting license, such actions by our legislators tell me they at least care about the sport.
With the many threats that hunting faces from those individuals and groups who would like to see it end, we need the support of our state legislators.
Sure, mixing hunting and politics isn't a popular stance, but if there is ever an attempt to curtail or stop hunting, we need our legislators to step up and protect our sport.
So when they introduce bills that they believe will improve hunting or improve the Game Commission, that at least tells me that our legislators care.
Local state Rep. Gerald Mullery cares enough about hunting and fishing that he has hosted annual open houses with the PGC and Fish and Boat Commission, giving the public a chance to ask questions to the decision-makers directly.
State Rep. David Maloney (R-Berks) did the same thing this fall when he introduced a bill that would remove the PGC's exemption from the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. While the move wasn't popular with many in the Game Commission, I have no doubt how Maloney would vote if anti-hunting legislation ever came before the House.
Recently, another legislator showed he cares about hunting. State Rep. Kevin Haggerty (D-Lackawanna) issued a memo on Tuesday announcing his intention to introduce legislation to shorten the term of commissioners on the PGC board from eight to four years.
While I'm glad to see Haggerty get involved with hunting issues, I'm not so sure the idea to shorten commissioner's terms is a good one.
But first, let's look at Haggerty's reasons for the move, according to his memo:
• To keep commissioners more responsive and representative of the contemporary outdoor community.
• By reducing the years of service, the point-of-view of future sitting commissioners will be closer aligned to that of the Governor who appoints them and the Senate that confirms them.
• By cutting in half the number of years that a commissioner must volunteer as an appointed board member, serving with no pay, more men and women will become interested in the challenging, time consuming position.
I have no problem with the first point. The third reason I'm not so sure is a major problem.
The second point, however, is pretty alarming. It shouldn't matter if a commissioner's point of view lines up with that of the Governor's or the Senate. The more important aspect, in my opinion, is that their point of view be closely aligned with the hunters in the district they represent.
Having similar beliefs with those of the Governor and Senate shouldn't be a prerequisite for a seat on the Game Commission board.
On top of that, if commissioner seats need to be filled every four years, chances are there will be a lot of vacant seats on the board.
Well, a look at recent vacancies shows that it takes the legislature and Governor a long time to just act on filling a seat. Before Jay Delaney was appointed to represent the northeast region on the PGC board in 2007, the seat was vacant for 15 months.
While I may not agree with the idea to reduce the terms for commissioners, I commend Haggerty for caring enough to get involved.
One of Haggerty's goals for shorter terms is to keep commissioners more representative of the outdoor community.
As a state legislator, Haggerty himself is doing just that for his constituents who hunt.