Changes Coming for Legislature's IFW Committee

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The legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will get new leaders and at least five new members in 2013. The committee consists of 13 members including a Senate and a House chair.

Both of the committee chairs will change because they were Republicans and the Democrats took decisive control of the new legislature in Tuesday’s election. It was a double hit for Senator Tom Martin, the IFW Committee’s Senate chair, because he lost his race for reelection. Representative Paul Davis, the committee’s House chair last session, will be replaced in that leadership position by a Democrat.

IFW Committee members not returning to the legislature.

Republican Senator Tom Martin, defeated for reelection.

Republican Representative Ralph Sarty, who was term limited out of the House.

Democrat Representative Herb Clark, who was term-limited out of the House and lost his campaign for the Senate.

Democrat Representative Jane Eberle who was term-limited out of the House.

IFW Committee members who were reelected on Tuesday.

Democrat Senator John Patrick.

Republican Senator Tom Saviello.

Republican Representatives Paul Davis, Dale Crafts, Stacey Guerin, Eleanor Espling, and Steve Wood.

Democrat Representatives Sheryl Briggs and Mike Shaw.

IFW Committee’s Senate Members

You can assume that Senator John Patrick will return to the committee to serve as its Senate chair. But I am hard pressed to identify the second Democrat Senator who will now serve on the committee.

Among the Democrat Senators, Troy Jackson of Aroostook County and Anne Haskell of Cumberland County would be good choices for this committee, if they are interested. Jackson served on the committee previously including a term as chair. Haskell is an avid hunter who shot a moose a few weeks ago.

Senator Saviello does not expect to return to the IFW Committee, and will try to remain on the Natural Resources Committee that he chaired last session.

Newly-elected Senator David Burns of Washington County will be a possibility for this committee, although the retired state trooper served on the Criminal Justice Committee while in the House and that’s a principle interest of his.

This brings up a point I want to make. The legislature’s Fish and Wildlife Committee used to be one of the most popular committees, with far more legislators seeking appointment to it than to other committees. That is no longer the case, especially in the Senate.

IFW Committee’s House Members

I expect all seven House members who were re-elected and who served on the IFW Committee last session will want to do so again. And you can also assume that the House chair will be one of the two returning Democrat Representatives, Sheryl Briggs or Mike Shaw. 

There will probably be plenty of Democrat Representatives seeking to serve on this committee. I know that retired state trooper Tim Marks indicated in a newspaper interview that he would like to be on the IFW committee.

The most interesting aspect of this is whether the Democrats will put a non-sportsman on the committee. Rep. Jane Eberle was the first person to serve on this committee who didn’t hunt or fish. I’ll republish a column I wrote about Jane at the end of this post, to both thank her again for her service and to explain why I hope a nonsportsman will once again be chosen for this important committee.

While Republicans had six members of the House on the committee last session, they are likely to get only four positions this time. That means one of the members from last session will be gone. And I wouldn’t want to speculate right now on who that would be. It’s unlikely that any newly elected Republican Representatives will be able to get on this committee, because all of the returning Reps have a major interest in hunting and fishing issues.

But sometimes the committee membership decisions depend on who the Reps support for their party’s leadership positions, so my analysis remains pending until the House leadership positions are resolved in early December.

Rep. Jane Eberle

I did everything I could to keep Representative Jane Eberle off the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. Jane doesn’t hunt or fish, a prerequisite for service on that committee in the past. She was a well-known environmental activist, a liberal Democrat from Cape Elizabeth, and had no history or relationship with sportsmen.

As the song goes, be grateful for unanswered prayers.

The House Speaker ignored my pleas and put Jane on the IFW Committee. About a year into her service on that committee, I invited Jane to accompany me to a meeting of the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club. Despite that fact that her yard in Cape Elizabeth borders the club’s grounds, Jane had never been to a club meeting.

And I told club members the story that I have since repeated in a number of places - how hard I’d fought to keep Jane off the committee. And how pleased I had become with her service on that committee.

Jane Eberle, in fact, was a breath of fresh air, a very conscientious hard-working committee member, who studied the issues carefully, asked great questions, and rarely disagreed with the rest of the committee’s members on key issues. She was influential on our issues both inside and outside the committee, and was particularly helpful in explaining our issues in the Democratic caucus and on the House floor.

Jane took the lead on several critical issues, including organizing her own working group to bring bass anglers together with lake organizations who were feuding about invasive plants. I attended those meetings and was pleasantly surprised when Jane was able to bring everyone to a common understanding of the challenges posed by invasive plants, and win commitments from all parties to work together to prevent the spread of those plants.

I came to understand that someone who doesn’t hunt and fish can bring an important outside perspective to the issues that those of who do can’t offer. Many of those who joined me at the legislature to represent sportsmen agreed with me that Jane was an outstanding member of the IFW Committee – indeed, one of the best.

On the final day of IFW Committee meetings last spring, Jane offered some excellent closing remarks, reminding committee members that, “This committee is not only about hunting, fishing and trapping.”

She also said, “I hope my voice will continue on this committee.”

I vigorously agree! 

 

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