Policy Pulse: Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Bill Falls to Partisan Gridlock

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 is hailed as a broadly supported bill in a deeply divided Congress – a chance for hunting, shooting, and fishing groups to move long-standing priorities through Congress with minimal conflict. Its primary sponsors are a Democrat from North Carolina (Kay Hagan) and a Republican from Alaska (Lisa Murkowski). It has 46 cosponsors well distributed among both parties. It includes diverse provisions ranging from authorizing electronic duck stamps that fund wetland conservation to opening more public lands to target shooting, hunting, and fishing.

Although the bill had a little “floor time” in early July – meaning members of Congress discussed the bill – it was quickly buried under proposed amendments from all sides. The Senate voted to not continue debating the bill by a vote of 41 for/56 against, largely due to disagreements over whether and which amendments would be voted on. There were amendments on a wide range of issues, many of which had nothing to do with this legislation.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act met a predictable fate in a partisan Congress. It may be taken up again this year, but that is less and less likely given the limited legislative days left and the bickering that broke out when it was introduced. Sponsors of some provisions may try to move their bills forward separately. For example, there was a hearing in late July on S.1554, The Hunt Unrestricted on National Treasures (HUNT) Act, which would allocate 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to providing access to existing federal public lands. The League supports moving separate components of the Sportsmen’s Act forward and is working with other sportsmen groups to support some of these efforts.