At least one chamber of the Legislature believes that lawmakers, and not the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, should have the ultimate oversight over the rule-making process that establishes hunting seasons, shrimping zones, fish quotas and other regulations. The Senate overwhelmingly approved such legislation this week by a 35-3 vote to transfer the authority. All of Acadiana’s senators lined up behind the swap.
The decision comes on the heels of an effort to abolish the commission by Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Livonia, who is also the sponsor of Senate Bill 308. Some lawmakers were concerned that his most recent initiative would do the same. “This bill doesn’t change anything in respect to the commission’s make-up,” Marionneaux told the Senate. “It just gives oversight to the natural resources committees in each chamber.”
Environmental lobbyists like Randy Lanctot, director of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, was initially opposed to the proposal, but eventually came around when Marionneaux overhauled the proposal to make sure the commission maintained its emergency rule-making authority. Given the urgency of the situation along the coast, Marionneaux said during an earlier hearing that it was the only prudent thing to do. “The emergency rulemaking process is still in place so things like the spill in the Gulf can be addressed,” he said.
For example, the commission had opened special seasons along the coast to give commercial fishermen an opportunity to harvest their product before the spill impacts their industry to a greater degree. “So, in case of an emergency, there will be no impediment due to the passage of this legislation,” he promised senators.
Specifically, Marionneaux’s bill would give the House and Senate natural resources committee one month to weigh in on a non-emergency rule passed by the commission. “It gives us 30 days from the time we are emailed a summary report of the commission’s decision,” Marionneaux said. This includes hunting and fishing seasons, bag limits and other business routinely handled by the commission.
Sen. Nick Gautreaux, D-Abbeville, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, argued that lawmakers already do a good bit of constituent work when it comes to hunting and fishing issues, so it makes sense to move in this direction. “A lot of us get phone calls about hunting season and shrimp season,” Gautreaux said.
If adopted by the Legislature, the new law would go into effect on Aug. 15. SB 308 now moves to the Lower Chamber for further consideration and will likely be assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee. Moving forward, Marionneaux said the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has no opposition to his legislation.