Raleigh, N.C. — A measure that would expand the types of legal hunting on Sundays is one vote away from heading to the governor after lawmakers made more adjustments to it to placate churchgoers.
House Bill 640, the Outdoor Heritage Act, includes a number of provisions designed to foster interest in outdoor activities. But debate over the measure has focused on a section that would allow people to hunt with rifles and shotguns on Sundays.
When the House initially approved the bill in April, there were no time restrictions on Sunday hunting, but the Senate last month decided to prohibit the activity until after noon when opponents said hunting in the morning would undercut the tradition of setting aside Sunday for church and family.
The House rejected Senate adjustments to the bill, and a conference committee hammered out a compromise in recent days.
Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, said Thursday that, because most rural churches have Sunday services from 10 a.m. until noon, lawmakers agreed to carve out 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. as a no-hunting period, except on existing hunting preserves that are at least 500 yards away from any place of worship.
Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, asked that time during Sunday afternoons also be set aside for funerals. Dixon said further changes to the bill weren't possible under legislative rules.
"It's a serious issue, but if you look at the past, the hunting community has been sensitive to those things," Dixon said, adding that lawmakers could revisit the issue later.
Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, complained that Sunday hunting is still prohibited in Wake and Mecklenburg counties under the bill, while any other county that wants to restrict it must wait until October 2017 to opt out of the bill.
Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said he still objected to any hunting on Sunday and urged House members to reject the compromise bill.
The conference report was adopted by an 88-26 vote. The Senate is scheduled to vote on it on June 23. If approved there, it would head to Gov. Pat McCrory.