Getting to know the Pennsylvania House Game and Fisheries Committee

The workings of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Game and Fisheries Committee is something that every hunter, angler and interested outdoor person should get to know. The committee is made up of 27 representatives from across the state — 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats, three women and 24 men. The majority chairman is Rep. Keith Gillespie from York. The minority chair is Bryan Barbin, who serves Cambria County and part of Somerset.

Some of the members are hunters, anglers or both. Some are not.

Every piece of legislation that affects hunting, fishing and trapping must pass through this committee. Members discuss the legislation and vote whether or not to move the bill forward to the full house. Members of the controlling party can allow bills that they deem unacceptable to die in committee or they can vote to move bills that they deem favorable out to the full House. A similar committee exists in the Pennsylvania Senate.

Executive directors of both the Game, and Fish and Boat commissions, give annual reports before these committees each year. They also might contact the committee or its members about specific legislation or issues, such as a license increase or the status of the Susquehanna River.

In the past, I have watched a few of the representatives in action during public meetings, and I have interviewed several over the telephone. However, until last week, the committee’s members were mostly names that I read in the newspaper or were attached to news releases. This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to put faces and personalities to some of those names.

All 27 members of the committee were invited to learn more about the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s bear management program. This included a dinner and presentation from the commission’s bear biologist, Mark Ternent, at the Sportsmen’s Hotel in Renovo, on March 9. The following snowy morning, they had an opportunity to watch Ternent and agency staff tranquilize a female bear in her den and then collect biological data on the sow and her three cubs.

Both Rep. Gillespie and Rep. Barbin attended, as well as eight others members and Ann Swanson, executive director of the multi-state Chesapeake Bay Commission.

All of the representatives, some with spouses, were interacting in a jovial manner — sprinkled with teasing and joking. Things like who they might want to use as “bear bait.” One was wearing a gold plastic shield — what he called a “junior wildlife conservation officer’s badge.” Rep. Dave Maloney (R-Berks County) was passing out photos of his three 2016 archery hunting trophies — a gobbler, bear and a nice buck.

Some of the long-time members had visited a bear den before, while it was all new for recently assigned committee member Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware and Montgomery counties).

The event gave the commission a chance to interact with House members in a relaxed setting and also showcase the agency’s bear management program. Of course, having your photo taken with a cute, cuddly seven-week-old bear cub doesn’t hurt, either.

Since I was a guest, most of my conversation with the politicos was of the purely social nature. I walked Rep. Gillespie out to his pickup, and we briefly discussed a license increase for the Game Commission, as well as Sunday hunting.

“The agency needs a license increase, but I’d just prefer to pass a bill that would let them set their own fees,” Gillespie said. “They are professionals and I trust that they would not price themselves out of existence.

Gillespie added, “As for the Sunday hunting bill, I’m not too sure about that one.”

 

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