Raleigh, N.C. — It took the House Rules committee about three minutes to approve House Bill 66, a measure that would give the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources the authority to issue captivity permits or licenses for wild animals "for scientific, educational or exhibition purposes."
The bill doesn't mention possums specifically, but it's in response to a ruling last fall that DENR didn't actually have the authority under current law to grant a special permit to Clay's Corner proprietor Clay Logan for the annual New Year's Eve Possum Drop in Brasstown.
Committee members regarded the bill with humor.
"What's the need for this bill?" asked Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford.
"So we can exhibit a captured animal," replied the bill's sponsor, Rep. Roger West, R-Cherokee.
"I think it's one of the finest bills I've ever seen," remarked Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston.
Kidding aside, Wildlife Resources Commissioner Gordon Myers told the committee the bill is needed because the ruling by Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison called into question the agency's statutory power to issue permits for the exhibit of any native animal, even in zoos or rescue centers.
"We believe it has potentially far-reaching consequences," Myers testified. "Even Groundhog Day events."
The proposal passed the committee unanimously. Rules Chairman Tim Moore said he expects it to move quickly to the House floor.