Difficult Legislative Session in Maryland Ends with Some Big Wins

Contact: Nick Lewis, Mid-Atlantic States Coordinator

Highlights

  • There was no shortage of sportsmen-related activity in the 2021 Maryland Legislative Session as policies such as increased tax credit for game meat donations, the right to hunt and fish, decreasing discharge distance, and firearms legislation worked their way through the General Assembly.
  • On May 18, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Larry Hogan signed Senate Bill 318 (SB 318) and House Bill 1134 (HB 1134) into law, establishing Maryland’s right to hunt and fish.
  • Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chairs successfully ushered through legislation to increase the game meat donation tax credit with Senate Bill 769 (SB 769) and House Bill 1017 (HB 1017), which were signed by Governor Hogan on May 18.
  • The local delegations for Allegany and Garrett Counties successfully passed legislation that decreases the archery discharge distance from 100 yards to 50 yards.
  • Unfortunately, several efforts to restrict firearms and ammunition, and limit efforts to sell wild game meat were introduced. The Caucus successfully defeated these bills, preventing their chances at becoming law.
  • Several efforts by local delegations to increase sportsmen’s access via Sunday Hunting were defeated by anti-sportsmen’s groups.

Why it Matters: Maryland has a rich hunting and fishing legacy that is embedded in the state’s traditions and history. The Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus has fought hard to pass pro-sportsmen legislation and oppose efforts by the antis seeking to limit sportsmen’s rights. Overall, Maryland’s sporting community saw many successes this year, such as expansions to access and opportunity being signed into law by Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Larry Hogan. While these wins provide an optimistic outlook for the future of our nation’s sporting traditions, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to remain engaged in fighting anti-sportsmen’s policy initiatives in the state – several of which also saw progress throughout the regular sessions.

The right to hunt and fish is a growing trend across the country. This year, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Hogan signed Senate Bill 318, authored by Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Bailey, and House Bill 1134 (HB 1134), authored by Caucus Co-Chair Delegate Ned Carey into law. This finalized an accomplishment that the Caucus has fought tirelessly to achieve. This is a highlight for the state’s sportsmen and women, recognizing the contributions that the sporting community offers to Maryland’s economy and further guaranteeing the right to continue these activities in the future.

“The Right to Fish & Hunt Act of 2021 is a testament to the hard work of the Maryland Sportsmen’s Caucus this session. It is a wonderful legacy that we are proud to have accomplished and enacted to inspire the future generations of sportsmen and women in our State,” said Caucus Co-Chair Senator Jack Bailey.

“As a Maryland Delegate, this is one of my proudest legislative accomplishments for the sportsmen and women of Maryland,” said Caucus Co-Chair and HB 1134 author Delegate Ned Carey.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly also passed an increased tax credit for hunters who donate their game meat to a donation program. SB 769 and HB 1017 were championed by Caucus Co-Chairs Senator Bailey, Senator Hester, and Delegate Beitzel, and will help unite the sporting and non-sporting communities by providing meals to those in need throughout Maryland. The increased tax credit goes a long way to further incentivize hunters to share their harvests.

Additionally, Senate Bill 453 (SB 453) and House Bill 637 (HB 637) – Caucus-supported legislation which reduces the distance around a dwelling in which archery hunters may discharge their bows in Allegany and Garrett County -- were signed into law. This legislation cuts the discharge distance from 100-yards to 50-yards, lessening a serious barrier to archery hunters, increasing access to hunting areas while helping the state manage wildlife populations.

This year also saw several pieces of legislation filed to restrict firearms and ammunition, though through dedicated efforts by the Caucus, all these attempts were defeated. Despite this victory, many efforts to expand Sunday hunting in Maryland were also killed. Anti-hunting groups successfully defeated efforts to expand hunting access, thus curbing recruitment, retention, reactivation (R3) efforts and impacting wildlife conservation funding in the state.

"One of the most rewarding experiences of my legislative career has been serving as a leader of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus,” said Caucus Vice-Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Executive Council Member Delegate Wendell Beitzel. “As the numerous accomplishments this session demonstrate, the Caucus effectively and passionately represents the interests of Maryland’s sportsmen and women and safeguards our ability to continue to hunt, fish, and trap.”

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work alongside the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and remain engaged in supporting pro-sportsmen’s policies and defeating anti-sportsmen’s efforts whenever they arise.

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Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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