House Bill 391 that would guarantee public access to tidal waterways received approval by the House of Representatives' Committee on Civil Law and Procedure, setting up a hearing on the floor of the House in coming days.
And no one was more shocked than Louisiana Sportsmen's Coalition board member Darryl Carpenter.
"I have spent so many days in the Capitol, and have heard the conversations and the lobby that's opposing it — so, yes, I am surprised it passed the committee," Carpenter said.
He credited two things to the passage:
• Opposition no-shows — "A lot of the members who we heard were against us didn't show up to the committee because they didn't want to be seen as voting against this bill," Carpenter said.
• Undecided listeners — "The undecided members sat and listened to testimony and asked intelligent questions, and I guess at the end of the day they voted their conscience," Carpenter said.
Of course, it also helped that anglers packed the Capitol.
"There must have been 200 people there," Carpenter said.
Many who sat in support and spoke in favor of HB 391 were students, who Carpenter said were granted excused absences by high school administrators to participate in "a civics lesson."
Support by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and Back Country Hunters and Anglers were a big help in getting committee approval.
There remains a lot of ground to cover before the bill becomes law: It must first be approved by the full House, move to a Senate committee, receive approval by the full Senate and then be signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
"Each one of these (steps) has the ability to kill (the bill)," Carpenter said.
But he said today's events give him great hope.
"If nothing else, if this doesn't continue forward ... I think it has brought the issue to light enough that maybe it'll bring the opposition to the table," Carpenter said. "At this point, the attitude of the landowners has been, 'We have it, you want it, you don't have anything to bargain with.'
"They're starting to see public opinion is turning."
He also said this should be a wake-up call to anglers who want to change the way water access is handled in Louisiana.
"The underlying lesson is that being a keyboard warrior only makes you feel good about yourself," Carpenter said. "You've got to actually get involved in the process. In numbers you can effect change."
Committee members voting in favor of the bill were Reps. Raymond Crews, Gregory Cromer, Julie Emerson, Randal Gaines and Alan Seabaugh. Voting against were Reps. Robby Carter, Sam Jenkins and Gregory Miller. Committee chairman Raymond Garofalo abstained.
While no date has been set for the hearing on the House floor, Carpenter said it usually takes no more than a couple of weeks for bills to move from committee to a full hearing.
What can you do to support HB 391?
1. Participate in the Louisiana Sportsmen's Coalition movement by joining their group here.
2. Sign their support letter, and find links to your representatives and senators on their website:
3. Join their Facebook page, leave comments and tell your friends to spread the news.