Why It Matters: The conclusion of legislative sessions across the Lower Midwest provides an opportunity to reflect on the victories for sportsmen and women secured this year while taking inventory of the remaining challenges and opportunities that await us in the future. While the region did witness significant wins, thanks to the work of like-minded sportsmen and women legislators, there is still work to be done as states carry over ideas and, in some cases, specific pieces of priority legislation into the 2024 legislative session.
- With the Missouri General Assembly and Oklahoma Legislature joining the Arkansas General Assembly in adjourning their respective 2023 regular legislative sessions, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is proud to celebrate this year’s victories while preparing for the work that awaits in the sessions to come.
- In 2023, Arkansas had a banner year thanks to the diligent work of members of the Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, who led in the passage of several key pieces of legislation.
- Elsewhere, Caucus members from around the region remained steadfast in their defense against anti-sportsmen efforts that ranged from challenges to state wildlife management authority to challenges of the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding sportsmen and women.
Across the Lower Midwest, state legislatures meet on a part-time, annual basis. As a result, the bulk of the year’s legislative action is completed in a 3–5-month period that typically begins in January and ends in May. Having crossed that finish line in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is proud to reflect on the victories secured across the region this year while setting our sights on the sessions ahead and continuing our work to protect and advance our time-honored outdoor traditions.
This year, Arkansas led the way in passing pro-sportsmen legislation thanks to the leadership of members of the Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. Victories secured this session include the passage of HB 1307, which prohibits the state from investing in companies that discriminate, among other things, entities that engage in the lawful manufacture, sale, and use of firearms. Additionally, HB 1763 follows Kansas’ lead (2022) in providing for the creation of a discounted youth lifetime hunting and fishing license, and SB 415 follows Missouri’s lead (2021) in defining liability standards for landowners and practitioners using prescribed fire.
While these victories are critical to our mission, members of the sporting-conservation community should also celebrate defeated harmful legislation thanks to the steadfastness of state legislative sportsmen’s caucus members across the region. In 2023, this ranged from a variety of ideas that would challenge the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding sportsmen and women, to efforts that would undermine the ability of state fish and wildlife management agencies to perform their duties. While not often receiving the spotlight that is cast upon pro-sportsmen victories, this ability to “guard the gate” against harmful legislation should be recognized and celebrated all the same.
While the end of legislative sessions around the region does provide a moment for celebration, the work is not over. In states like Oklahoma, bills that reach a certain threshold in the legislative process remain eligible for carryover into the 2024 legislative sessions where they will start the year in the same position they ended 2023. This can be either a challenge or a blessing, depending on the nature of the bill. Likewise, just because a bill was defeated this year does not mean that it won’t make itself known again in future sessions. Recognizing that, members of the sporting-conservation community are encouraged to stay tuned throughout the year for updates while keeping their foot on the gas as it relates to their support for our nation’s time-honored outdoor traditions.