Sunday, March 08, 2009

Third Times a Charm

The saga of HB 187 lives on. Friday Rep. Ferry played a strategy that’s become common during this process, bringing his patchwork piece of legislation to the floor just prior to its adjournment. This was the 3rd substitution. What’s new is language by Rep. Draxler. His injections changed the board from having one that had advisory capacity to a board with rule making authority, something we’ve been asking for since before the Bill was made public. There’s just one hitch; a simple little word that sets up the criteria for listing a river, the word and. Since the word and was used, in order for a body of water to qualify for addition to the list it must meet all listed criteria. Had the word been or, a said water would just have to meet one of the listed criteria. Bottom line, there few if any waters that will be acceptable. Rep. Draxler tried to amend this recognizine the implication of the language, but his amendment was not accepted.

Ten more pieces of water were added as part of the 3rd substitution. This is good, and now takes the list up to 40, 41 listed but one is listed twice (yet more confusion). We’re still far short of a reasonable list of waters, especially in the central and southern part of the state. Given the inclusion of and versus or, virtually this is all we’re going to get. If the Bill passes the House, which we’ll know by Monday, there may be some opportunity to add waters in the Senate.

Rep. Draxlers efforts weren’t all for not however, he was able to get the Board changed. It’s members would now be mostly comprised of those who recreate on our public waters. But, unless we’re able to get the language changed, this board will have little to do. Todd Bingham of the Farm Bureau was chomping at the bit to get this recent revision through the House and onto the Senate, now we know why. He lobbied hard all day Thursday and Friday to get this to the floor for a vote, but as we speak, Rep. Ferry late submission cost him, and again HB187 sits circled.

Having some time to read the Bill over the weekend has brought some other things to light. This is still a poorly crafted piece of legislation, even after Draxlers amendments, which are an improvement. However, the crux of the matter still falls upon the list; it’s arbitrary and capricious nature. It’s a list of random waters chosen based upon opinion, yet is far from inclusive. Regardless of how this Bill will affect the parties involved, its uncertainty creates inequality for all. Maybe that’s what good legislation is supposed to be.

With luck and hopefully wisdom, those in the Legislature will recognize the Bill’s shortcomings, piecemeal content and legal susceptibility. The House of tired of dealing with this given other very significant legislation that’s still to be dealt with. It seems obvious that interim study would at least give us something to work with. At this late juncture, that’s not likely to occur.

I look back at our first meeting with Rep. Ferry in January, and in frustration ponder the time we’ve collectively spent on this Bill. In that first meeting if he’d included us in the process as we asked, I can’t help but think we’d have been more constructive with our time. A number of the issues we brought up and questioned several months ago have been changed through conflict and divisiveness. It didn’t have to be that way, but unfortunately we weren’t the ones pulling the strings.

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