The one that got away

State Senators decided today to vote down a bill that would have taken away free fishing licenses for people on public assistance.

Posted Updated
Laura Leslie

It's a rare event for a bill to fail on a chamber floor.  In most cases, if it's clear a measure doesn't have the votes to pass, chamber leaders won't bring it up for a vote - or if debate on a bill appears to be going the wrong way, they'll intervene to send it back to a committee before it goes down in flames.

That wasn't the case for freshman Senator Jim Davis, R-Macon, who saw his Senate Bill 571 fail today, 22-26, with bipartisan disapproval.

S571 was an attempt to repeal a law that gives free fishing licenses to people on food stamps, Work First, or Medicaid.  It's called a subsistence license, and the idea behind it is to let low-income people fish for free in order to supplement their diet. 

The regular price of an annual fishing license is $15.

Davis called the subsistence license an "absurd" idea that costs local county governments money. And he said it's not fair that low-income people get it for free, when disabled people and veterans have to pay something for theirs. 

"Why are we giving all this stuff?" Davis asked. "Instead of enabling people, let’s empower them."  

Senator Andrew Brock, R-Davie, backed Davis up.

"Life is about choices," said Brock, arguing that if low-income people want to go fishing, they should save up for a license, “maybe after they pay for their cell phone or their widescreen TV.”

But other Republicans had trouble with the measure. Sen, Jean Preston, R-Carteret, said there are people in her district who actually do need the help to put food on the table. Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, agreed with Preston: "This one gives me a little heartburn."

Because the measure failed a floor vote, it can't be considered again until 2013.    


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