After a lengthy debate Tuesday afternoon, the Louisiana House of Representatives ultimately killed a bill that would have granted public access to the state’s tidal waters.
With only 37 members voting in favor and 59 against (with nine absent), House Bill 391 sponsored by Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) failed after a series of amendments were added to the legislation during more than two hours of debate in the State Capitol.
To see how individual House members voted, click here.
Daryl Carpenter, a board member with the Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition who supported the measure and watched the proceedings from the House gallery with more than 100 other anglers, said he actually thought the vote would have been a little closer.
“Watching this ‘quote-unquote democratic process’ today was totally mind-numbing … We were surprised by the vote. We were expecting it to be closer to 50-50,” he said Tuesday evening. “But in the last 48 hours, the land owners and oil companies did exactly what they said they were going to do: They brought in their battleships. It was probably close to 30 lobbyists for them — against two for us.”
That helped created obvious doubt and confusion amongst the legislators, he said.
“That was evidenced by some of the amendments that were offered,” Carpenter said. “Because this bill came in so fast and started making its way through the system so fast, we didn’t have an opportunity to educate a lot of these lawmakers on a lot of stuff they were led to believe .… But we learned a lot.
“While we suffered a defeat today, I think we made it obvious to everyone in that building that we are now organized and are organizing. This issue is not going to go away. Continually trying to sweep it under the rug isn’t going to happen, and that’s the reason we’re already starting to get invitations that say, ‘Alright, you’ve made your point. Come on and let’s talk.’”
But for this session, Carpenter said the legislation is dead and won’t be returned to the House’s calendar. However, work has already begun on keeping coalition members focused on moving forward.
“I think this is just going to strengthen the resolve of all these guys. Our job as the Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition is to keep them engaged, keep our membership educated as to what took place today and who was behind it, and educate the legislators going forward,” he said. “I think we’ve shown we can at least shake mountains — we didn’t move mountains, but we sure shook it up pretty good.”
Carpenter said the coalition has already been invited to help create a task force that will work to potentially hammer out a compromise for all the stakeholders.
“We made it further than anybody’s ever made it before,” Carpenter said. “We’ve woken a lot of people up and we’ve proven that we’re a voice that’s not going to go away. So there will be communication and negotiation going forward.”
Carpenter said he wanted to thank all of the coalition members who contributed time and money to the effort, and encouraged them to remain active going forward.
“My message right now would be go home, and spend some time with your family,” he said. “Relax. We’re going to regroup, and next year starts right now. Don’t let up.”