By Brett Stayton, Mid-Atlantic State Coordinator
With the recent conclusion of the 2018 legislative session, the Delaware Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) continued to be an integral part of sportsmen’s policy in the state. Founded in 2015, the bipartisan and bicameral Caucus is one of the newest members of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) and has racked up an impressive number of victories for their sportsmen and women constituents in short order.
Under the guidance of Caucus Co-Chairs, Representatives Jeff Spiegelman and William Carson, Senators Bryan Pettyjohn and Bruce Ennis, the Caucus holds monthly meetings while in session to discuss policy priorities related to promoting and advancing hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping opportunities in The First State. During these meetings the Caucus is able to educate members on the pros and cons of various pieces of legislation to ensure that members have the most accurate and up-to-date information on sportsmen’s policy issues.
In 2016, the Caucus successfully advanced legislation that lifted the prohibition of Sunday hunting for deer in the state. The bill also opened up five specific Sundays for hunting on private lands as well as select areas of public land regulated by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. In recognition of their hard work and dedication, the Caucus was presented the NASC Heritage Award for the Northeast Region at the 2016 NASC Annual Summit.
This year, the Caucus continued their successful track record with the passage of several key bills for Delaware’s sportsmen and women. Notably, the passage of SB 198 provides further Sunday hunting opportunities throughout the state’s deer season, and HB 156 expands the range of hand gun calibers and pistol caliber rifles authorized for use during the states shotgun deer hunting season.
In addition, the Caucus scored several other legislative victories during the 2018 session, including:
- DE HB 329: Sponsored by Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Carson, this bill will eliminate the prohibition against the mere possession of a body-gripping trap with a jaw spread in excess of five inches. This bill protects the many licensed Delaware trappers who also trap in other states where larger traps are legally permitted.
- DE HB 438: Supported by several Caucus members, this legislation will eliminate the states authority to revoke a student’s hunting license if they are found in violation of the state’s truancy standards.
- DE SB 220: Co-sponsored by Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Spiegelman, Sen. Pettyjohn and several other Caucus members, the legislation will create two new vehicle license plates promoting both saltwater and freshwater fishing. A one-time fee of $95 will be required to obtain either version of the license plate, and funds collected through the sale of these license plates will be utilized by the Division of Fish and Wildlife, with recommendations from the Delaware Advisory Council on Recreational Fishing Funding, to enhance fishing opportunities and experiences throughout the state.
SB 198 and SB 220 were signed into law by Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor John Carney on July 11th. The deadline for the Governor to take action on bills HB 329 and HB 438 is September 30.
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (9.92%)
- Enact or expand temporary hunter education deferral programs (apprentice license programs, multiyear options, programs for all first-time hunters regardless of age, and programs promoting hunting of multiple game species). (13.40%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (63.27%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (13.40%)