A bill that would guarantee public access to Louisiana’s tidal waterways is scheduled to be debated on the floor of the state’s House of Representatives next Tuesday, April 17 at 2 p.m.

Daryl Carpenter, a board member with the Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition, said Friday afternoon it’s always possible the date for floor debate of House Bill 391 could change, but he’s gearing up for Tuesday afternoon.

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell), passed out of the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure by a 5 to 3 vote on April 10, setting up Tuesday’s floor vote.

“Usually if it changes, it’s because the author asks for it to be changed,” Carpenter said. “I asked (Rep. Pearson) this morning if he thought that was going to happen, and he said he had no intentions whatsoever to ask it to be changed.”

That means as many anglers as possible are being requested to pack into the House gallery while the bill is being debated Tuesday afternoon, he said. 

“The House floor is a little different,” Carpenter said, noting anglers were invited to speak earlier this week at the committee meeting. “You will not be able to offer testimony, however, we have been asked to fill the upstairs gallery to show our support.”

The bill’s somewhat unexpected passage out of committee this week means good old fashioned hardball Louisiana politics are at work behind the scenes in an effort to thwart the legislation, Carpenter said. 

“One of the senators called us asking for a meeting to see if we can sit and hammer this out, and we have accepted that meeting invitation,” Carpenter said. “In that conversation, it was said by the senator, ‘I’m not liking where this is going, because the landowners have come out that they’re out to ruin peoples’ careers if they stand behind y’all on this.’

“All that does is strengthen my resolve that we need to let these folks know sometimes there are hard decisions to be made, and you have (people) like these landowners and powerful oil companies that will come out with stuff like that — but ultimately it’s us voters that make their career.”

Carpenter also cleared up a couple of questions on the legislation about gated-off canals, and what would happen during duck season.

“Right now, the grandfather language was taken out, and it says the only gates to remain are those that were properly permitted through the Corps of Engineers,” he said, noting that amendments could be added or changed in the legislative process. “And as of right now, this would not apply to those areas that are privately owned during duck season, and I want to tweak that. 

“I don’t want to shut the whole thing down for two months during duck season. We need to shut down those areas that are utilized for duck hunting.” 

For a look at the most current wording on HB 391, click here.

In the meantime, Carpenter requested that everyone interested contact as many representatives as possible before next Tuesday and express support for the bill. 

“The word is it’s a bad weather weekend, so you’re not going to be fishing. So between now and Tuesday, you need to ring all 105 of those legislators’ phones, and if anyway possible, you need to be sitting in that gallery Tuesday at 1:30,” he said. “They are scheduled to come into session at 2 o’clock, and we are first on the agenda.”

If the legislation is ultimately approved by the House, it would then move to a Senate committee, and eventually would have to receive approval by the full Senate — and then be signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards — to become law.

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.